The federal government erred in its scientific evaluation of marijuana’s therapeutic value and must take steps to correct the issue, a libertarian think tank said in a formal filing on Wednesday.
The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) submitted the request for correction to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which sent the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) a letter about the medical value of cannabis in 2015 that served as the basis for its ongoing status as a Schedule I drug.
But that letter lacked an important element required under the federal Information Quality Act. As a “highly influential scientific assessment” that played a central role in the DEA’s decision to maintain marijuana’s strict prohibition, HHS was required to conduct a scientific peer review of evidence on cannabis and its therapeutic potential.
No such peer review occurred, and CEI argued that HHS should therefore “formally withdraw its evaluation” and “inform the public that the information disseminated should not be relied upon for regulatory or other purposes until a proper peer review has been completed.”
CEI also asked the agency to let the DEA know that HHS “did not follow the proper procedures for being relied upon in such a regulatory proceeding.”
The DEA took great stock in the HHS evaluation in question. In its 2016 denial of a petition to consider rescheduling marijuana, it heavily cited the agency’s findings, which “concluded that marijuana has a high potential for abuse, has no accepted medical use in the United States, and lacks an acceptable level of safety for use even under medical supervision.”
But as CEI pointed out, multiple medical associations and a majority of the public have reached a starkly different conclusion. And because HHS failed to conduct a peer review of the subject, that represented a violation of several provisions outlined in an Office of Management and Budget (OMB) memo on ensuring the quality of scientific information that’s disseminated by the agency.
“Because no peer review was done, the requirements of OMB concerning selection of reviewers, independence, choice of peer review mechanism, opportunity for public participation in the peer review process, and certification of compliance were all violated by HHS,” CEI wrote.
HHS now has 120 days to respond to the group’s request for correction.
“Given that 33 states have legalized medical marijuana, it’s clear that federal policy could be significantly changed by a reassessment of this subject,” Devin Watkins, a CEI attorney, said in a press release.
“The peer review required by the Information Quality Act could play a major role in a reassessment of medical marijuana and would ensure that agencies cannot use uninformed opinion to claim a scientific basis for public policies,” he said. “Independent experts should evaluate the opinion of the agency and inform the agency when it is mistaken.”
Read the full letter from CEI requesting the marijuana correction below:
IQA Marijuana Final Clean by on Scribd
Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis/Side Pocket Images.