THE BLOG
01/06/2017 01:00 pm ET Updated Jan 07, 2018

No More Fake News -- Obama Should Require Truthful Data On Medical Marijuana

Since the day Obama became president, there have been rumors that on his last day of office he would somehow do a mic drop and make marijuana legal. This is not legally possible but there is something he could do before he leaves office to finally put an end to "reefer madness": update the Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) website and publications to reflect its own recent scientific findings on medical cannabis. Science that dispels four of the biggest myths about medical marijuana. Requiring scientific accuracy would allow Congress and the next Administration to have accurate information when discussing national medical cannabis policies that affects millions of Americans.

In August 2016, the DEA issued the "Denial of Petition to Initiate Proceedings to Reschedule Marijuana," in response to Washington and Rhode Island's attempts to reschedule cannabis While the DEA did not reschedule cannabis, the report did clarify four important misconception about medical cannabis: that cannabis was a "gateway drug", or that it caused cognitive decline, psychosis and lung cancer.

These arguments, especially the "gateway" theory, have been a centerpiece in the drug war for decades. All four are now disproven by the DEA's own research. It is a pretty small ask for Obama require it to use its own data.

The report also contradicted two earlier reports from the DEA, "The Dangers and Consequences of Marijuana Abuse" and "Drugs of Abuse." Following the release of the DEA's August report, Americans for Safe Access (ASA) released a paper which asked the Department of Justice (DOJ) and DEA to update contradicting information in the DEA publications. By December, neither agency had responded.

The lack of action led ASA to file a petition with the DOJ utilizing rights granted to our members and patients under the Information Quality Act (IQA). Passed in 1994, the law simply mandates that the data the government uses must be truthful. The IQA requires administrative agencies to devise guidelines that ensure the "quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of information" they distribute and to "[e]stablish administrative mechanisms allowing affected persons to seek and obtain correction of information maintained and disseminated by the agency that does not comply with the guidelines."

The petition identifies 25 violations of the IQA on the DEA's website and publications and includes suggested changes based on the DEA's own words from their August report.

Congress and the White House rely on the DEA to provide current and accurate information when they are making decisions about marijuana policy. Congress has voted against medical cannabis policy due to this inaccurate and outdated information, in fact Reps. Fleming , Wolf, Harris, and Sens. Graham, Feinstein, Grassley, and Sessions have all cited this information in hearing testimony or as reasons for their colleagues to vote against medical cannabis legislation.

Most importantly, Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions has his biases but listens to the DEA. At a hearing in 2014 he said:

"I thank you for you and some of your officials in DEA for speaking out and telling the truth about the dangers of marijuana. This is not a non-dangerous drug. And I've got to tell you in terms of messaging, the president's statement -- to me, I spent 12 years working with grassroots citizens' groups to change the approach to drugs and the climate of drugs and to make it hostile climate for drugs and explain the dangers of drug use."

If Congress is going to finally end the conflict between state and federal law, they will need to have accurate information. Granting the IQA petition will mean that we can break through the myth-induced gridlock and advance the dialog on medical cannabis so that a federal policy can be established that respects the rights and needs of patients.

Correcting the DEA's website and publications is in line with Obama's hopes when he first came into office. In the first months of his Presidency, Obama issued a memorandum to the heads of executive departments and agencies stating that, "The public must be able to trust the science and scientific process informing public policy decisions," and calling for "transparency in the preparation, identification, and use of scientific and technological information in policymaking."

Success in correcting this information will mean politicians can no longer use the misinformation about the gateway drug hypothesis, irreversible cognitive decline in adults, and cannabis causing psychosis or lung cancer to deny patients access to medical cannabis.

Today over 300 million Americans live in states where medical cannabis is in some form is legal. Over 2 million patients across 44 states are legally using medical cannabis according to under their state laws. However, medical cannabis is still illegal federally and the only thing protecting medical cannabis programs and the patients they serve from federal intervention is a memo from the DOJ and a line in a Congressional budget amendment. Both of which are in jeopardy under the new administration and in the 115th Congress.
Please join the over 80,000 people in urging Obama to require the DEA to consistently tell the truth by signing and sharing this petition.