Request to OIRA to Ensure Peer Review of Agency’s Medical Marijuana Claims

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For two years, CEI has been trying to get the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to conduct an independent peer review of their scientific claims concerning medical marijuana’s supposed lack of an accepted medical use. That peer review is required by rules under the congressionally enacted Information Quality Act (IQA).

Like two kids each complaining that the other one is at fault, both agencies are refusing to ask an independent scientific expert to review the report in which they each had a hand. Each agency claims it is the other agency’s responsibility. Neither is willing to fix the problems they created together. Situations like this illustrate why the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) was given the authority to coordinate agency actions.

Today, CEI has submitted a request to OIRA to resolve this disagreement. According to HHS, although it evaluated marijuana for its medical properties at the request of DEA, as required by statute, and sent those results to the DEA, it is not responsible for ensuring the quality of that information under the IQA because it didn’t publicly publish the information.

According to DEA, even though it published the report given to it by HHS and relied upon it to legally prohibit any medical use of marijuana in the United States, it is not responsible under the IQA for the quality of that report because the information it contains comes from HHS.

CEI appealed both of these decisions up to the highest levels of the agencies, including a final response by HHS Acting Secretary Eric Hargan. But even there, the two agencies disagreed with each other about whose fault it was.

It is amazing that for more than five years, marijuana has been entirely prohibited at the federal level—even with a doctor’s approval—without any independent scientific evaluation of the underlying facts and in flat contradiction of OMB rules.

This is not the way our government is meant to run. These kinds of scientific facts should not just be determined by political appointees based on where the political winds blow, but also evaluated by outside independent experts with no incentives to go along with what the political leadership wants.

CEI has now asked OIRA to order one or other of the agencies to consider the document a “Highly Influential Scientific Assessment” and to do the scientific peer-review that should have been done in the first place.

Once that scientific peer review is complete, we believe that it will show that marijuana does have many accepted medical uses. It is often prescribed by doctors for pain relief, increased appetite, and seizure reduction, and other uses for people that have cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, PTSD, wasting syndrome, and other diseases. When we started this process, 33 states recognized the medical use of marijuana; today that is up to 36 states (in addition to four territories and the District of Columbia).

And yet, despite all the evidence to the contrary, the federal government to this day continues to claim that it has no accepted medical use. Many people are arrested every year for marijuana possession when it should be legal at the federal level to obtain it under a doctor’s prescription. It’s time for the façade of there being no accepted medical use of marijuana to end in the light of actual independent scientific scrutiny.