In a remarkable about-face, the US Drug Enforcement Administration on Monday removed inaccurate information about the purported dangers of cannabis from the agency’s website.
The change came after the nonprofit advocacy group Americans for Safe Access filed a legal petition calling for the DEA to remove the incorrect claims. Filed on Dec. 5, the petition argues that the misleading statements—among which that cannabis can cause psychosis, lung cancer, and permanent cognitive damage—violate the federal Information Quality Act, designed to ensure integrity of information published by federal agencies.
Steph Sherer, ASA’s executive director, cheered the agency’s removal of the claims.
“The DEA’s removal of these popular myths about cannabis from their website could mean the end of the Washington gridlock” she said in a statement. “The federal government now admits that cannabis is not a gateway drug, and doesn’t cause long-term brain damage, or psychosis.”
An online document titled “The Dangers and Consequences of Marijuana Abuse,” contained the misleading statements, which were contradicted in an August 2016 document published by the DEA itself. This past September, then-US Attorney General Loretta Lynch said cannabis is not, in fact, a gateway drug. “We usually … are talking about individuals that started out with a prescription drug problem,” she said.
While the DEA appears to have pulled the information from its site, Americans for Safe Access (ASA) says it has yet to receive an official response from the agency. The DEA is now a week behind deadline to formally respond to the legal request, the nonprofit says. ASA’s lawyers say they’ve sent another letter that requests both an agency reply and the removal of several other allegedly misleading statements.
“We are hopeful the DEA will also remove the remaining statements rather than continue to mislead the public in the face of the scientifically proven benefits of medical cannabis.” said Vickie Feeman, a partner at the law firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe.
As the ASA notes in its letter, now is a particularly crucial time to ensure that all information being disseminated from the government be factually accurate. President Trump’s newly appointed attorney general, former Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, has made it clear in past statements that he opposes cannabis use, and some are concerned the White House’s looseness with the truth could creep into federal drug policy and put patients at risk.