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HHS Evaluation of Medical Marijuana Illegally Skipped Peer Review, CEI Argues in Data Quality Petition

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Today, the Competitive Enterprise Institute submitted a request to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that exposes a major flaw in the agency’s 2015 scientific assessment of medical marijuana. HHS used that assessment to decide that there were no established medical uses for marijuana. CEI argues in its filing that HHS must undertake a new assessment that is subject to proper peer review.

The CEI request was submitted under the Information Quality Act. That law requires federal agencies to follow certain procedures in disseminating information and was recently strengthened by new guidelines issued by the Office of Management and Budget this past April. The CEI request exposes the fact that the agency failed to conduct the required scientific peer review. The HHS assessment was then relied upon by the Drug Enforcement Administration in its 2016 decision to effectively keep marijuana banned.

“Given that 33 states have legalized medical marijuana, it’s clear that federal policy could be significantly changed by a reassessment of this subject,” said Devin Watkins, a CEI attorney. “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. Independent experts should evaluate the opinion of the agency and inform the agency when it is mistaken.”

CEI is specifically asking HHS to:

  • Formally withdraw its evaluation of marijuana through a new notice in the Federal Register informing the public that its information should not be relied upon by others until a peer review has been conducted.
  • Start the process of peer reviewing its evaluation of marijuana.
  • Allow the public to submit comments for evaluation by the peer reviewers, as required by Office of Management and Budget guidelines.
  • Reconsider the evaluation’s findings in light of the peer review’s conclusions