The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has made many a dubious claim about cannabis over the years. For this reason and countless others, our cannabis lawyers have consistently called to disband the DEA, believing it past the point where it can be redeemed. The good news it that the DEA took a hit last week for having posted false claims about cannabis.
In December 2016, the nonprofit medical marijuana advocacy group, Americans for Safe Access (ASA) formally requested the DEA either remove or correct misinformation regarding cannabis on the DEA’s website. ASA made its claims under the federal Information Quality Act, which ensures “the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of information (including statistical information) disseminated by Federal agencies.” ASA contends that the DEA failed to meet the Information Act’s and the ASA’s executive director explained why it was challenging the DEA on its inaccurate marijuana claims:
For years, the DEA has published scientifically inaccurate information about the health effects of medical cannabis, directly influencing the action —and inaction— of Congress. We are simply taking the DEA’s own statements, which confirm scientific facts about medical cannabis, and analysis that has long been accepted by a majority of the scientific community. Our request is simple: the DEA must change its public information to better comport with its own expressed views, so that Congress has access to the appropriate tools to make informed decisions about public health. Alternatively, ASA requests that the DEA simply remove the inaccurate statements or the documents in their entirety.
ASA’s take-down request focused on “The Dangers and Consequences of Marijuana Abuse,” an article available on the DEA’s website that contained 25 allegedly inaccurate statements, including the following:
- “Marijuana use can worsen depression and lead to more serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, anxiety, and even suicide.”
- “Marijuana takes the risks of tobacco and raises them. Marijuana smoke contains more than 400 chemicals and increases the risk of serious health consequences, including lung damage.”
- “Teens who experiment with marijuana may be making themselves more vulnerable to heroin addiction later in life, if the findings from experiments with rats are any indication.”
The ASA pointed out that the DEA itself had contradicted many of these 25 claims in a DEA report from August 2016 on its decision not to initiate proceedings to reschedule marijuana, including the following:
- “At present, the available data do not suggest a causative link between marijuana use and the development of psychosis.”
- “The HHS concluded that new evidence suggests that the effects of smoking marijuana on respiratory function and cancer are different from the effects of smoking tobacco.”
- “The HHS cited several studies where marijuana use did not lead to other illicit drug use. Two separate longitudinal studies with adolescents using marijuana did not demonstrate an association with use of other illicit drugs.”
By using the DEA’s own research against it, ASA forced the DEA into a corner where it had to either disavow its August 2016 report or admit that its website was incorrect. By removing the offending page, the DEA chose the latter.
Count one for the good guys.