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This is the Data Quality Act on Drugs:

Americans for Safe Access, an organization that promotes the legalization of medical marijuana, is launching a legal challenge against the federal government's claim that marijuana has "no currently accepted medical use." According to this story, ASA is using the Data Quality Act to challenge the scientific basis of such statements, in an effort to force the federal government to acknowledge the value of medical marijuana.

This could be an interesting test case for the judicial enforceability of the DQA. The law creates procedures to ensure the accuracy and reliability of scientific and technical information upon which federal government decisions are based. Enacted in 2000, it has been viewed primarily as a tool for industry to use to challenge the scientific basis of government regulations. If ASA is successful in their suit (and they have to overcome a challenge to their standing to sue), the DQA may be viewed in a different light.

More information about the lawsuit it available here. For the Science editorial on the suit, see here.

Former Law Review Editor:
It will. So far, the only case considering the availability of a private cause of action under the DQA/IQA was in the Fourth Circuit, which rejected an appeal by the Salt Institute of America.
7.12.2007 10:40am
Patrick Wright (mail):
Here is a link to a Findlaw article on the act. I had not heard of this law, and after reading this, I did a quick WL search. While there were a couple of cases that cited the act, there were no links to it. There is a reason for that, it was part of an appropriations bill and hasn't been codified. There are also two names for the act. Some call it the Information Quality Act and others call it the Data Quality Act.

DQA/IQA article

Regardless, an interesting law, thanks for highlighting it.
7.12.2007 10:50am
BruceM (mail) (www):
Result: No standing. Nobody has standing to challenge stupid, irrational government action under the Rehnquist and now Roberts courts (especially now). It's an easy punt for the courts and they get to do what they see as their ultimate duty - preserving the status quo - without addressing the merits of any argument.
7.12.2007 11:38am
rarango (mail):
Good catch! This law, like many, appears well intentioned, but apparently we will end up with scientific debates being settled by legal processes. Is that a good outcome? I have my doubts. (
7.12.2007 12:17pm
ronnie dobbs (mail):

Result: No standing. Nobody has standing to challenge stupid, irrational government action under the Rehnquist and now Roberts courts (especially now). It's an easy punt for the courts and they get to do what they see as their ultimate duty - preserving the status quo - without addressing the merits of any argument.


I think you're right re: the finding of no standing. The rest is hot air. If you don't have standing to challenge stupid, irrational government action, you shouldn't be permitted enlist the federal courts to address your pet peeves (or aid you in your political causes, such as marijuana legalization). The courts are in the business of resolving active controversies and redressing injuries, not policing the executive branch any time someone can point out a potential misstep.
7.12.2007 12:20pm
byomtov (mail):
The courts are in the business of resolving active controversies and redressing injuries, not policing the executive branch any time someone can point out a potential misstep.

But the medical value of marijuana is an active controversy. And how exactly are executive missteps to be corrected when the executive refuses to do so? Is it the case that no one can do anything to force the executive to obey the law?
7.12.2007 12:29pm
itshissong:
I agree with byomtov and I think an understanding of the law/courts that doesn't allow citizens to challenge factual findings by the government that are patently and demonstrably untrue is sorely lacking.
7.12.2007 12:32pm
rarango (mail):
It looks like DQU came into existence around the time the early Reagan administration was pushing paperwork reduction and cost-benefit analysis as requirements for regulatory change--first by executive order then subsequently as legislation.
7.12.2007 12:34pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):
If they win there goes the minimum wage and socialized industries like Public Ed that are based on unscientific theories of economics.
7.12.2007 1:29pm
TJIT (mail):
Raich was used to gut the commerce clause.

I wonder if this use of the DQA will lead to it being gutted in the usual application of "the drug war is excepted from all restraints upon it"

If so it would provide yet another example of the drug war being used to destroy legal concepts conservatives and libertarians strongly support.
7.12.2007 1:33pm
JB:
Duncan,
Are there any scientific theories of economics?

The minimum wage has been explained to me as a mechanism to trade efficiency for equality--i.e, it's justified on political and values grounds, not economic ones.
7.12.2007 2:09pm
Adeez (mail):
"medical value of marijuana is an active controversy."

Sure, if by "active controversy" you mean that there are politicians and lobbyists who will go to the grave denying the fact that marijuana has much medicinal value.

But it is not controversial if you actually look at the issue objectively and ask people who know better, e.g., doctors and patients.
7.12.2007 2:26pm
whit:
i think there's little doubt there's a controversy. but so what? the issue is its not the job of the federal govt. to determine who should or shouldn't get this treatment by banning it completely, against states' rights and a silly extension of the commerce clause. but among doctors, there most definitely IS a controversy.

the response is: "so what?"
7.12.2007 2:59pm
BobH (mail):
Adeez says, "it is not controversial if you actually look at the issue objectively and ask people who know better, e.g., doctors and patients."

Not to mention us casual dope-smokers, who know that laughter is the best medicine.
7.12.2007 3:00pm
Kelvin McCabe:
As far as standing, Americans for Safe Access is a non-profit group whose sole goal is to legalize medical marijuana, promote scientific research into cannabis theraputics, etc... Its executive director is a medical marijuana patient herself and is a named plaintiff (with four other plaintiffs with various medical ailments who all believed that marijuana was not medicine based on gov.t information UNTIL they were told by a doctor to try it when other legal medications didnt work.) They also count as members/represent scientists and doctors who want to do studies on medical marijuana, or prescribe marijuana to patients who could benefit, although no doctors are named plaintiffs.

Its my understanding from reading the various materials presented that the data quality act allows citizens to sue when the Gov.t issues innacurrate, incorrect or simply false data/information. (after first exhausting all administrative remedies with the agency which promulgated the information, which ASA has apparantly done for the last two years with the HHS Dept) In other words, its not like the taxpayer standing embargo. And, they are in the district court in san francisco, which i would think would be a good venue for ASA, not 2 mention the 9th cir. ct of appeals (win or lose).

We all should be rooting for Americans for Safe Access on this one. The gov.'ts Marijuana disinformation/propaganda campaign has gone on for far too long. For people who dont have health insurance or cant stand narcotic pills for pain relief, or cant hold down pills because of nauseua, pot is a welcome and very cheap alternative. Which is probably why its still illegal.
7.12.2007 3:01pm
Kelvin McCabe:
Correction: There is no specific section of the act that gives a party a right to sue. However, this quote is interesting: "Industry lobbyists and other conservatives contend that Congress intended the DQA to "provoke a revolution in how decisions get made," and meant to provide a means to force agencies and departments into court at any stage of the rule-making process if an affected party believes that inaccurate or unreliable information has been considered."

This was from the Findlaw article cited above by Patrick and since i dont have the legislative history, i dont if this was congress' intent. The lead attorney for ASA makes a good argument regardless: whats the point of having the DQA, if and when someone points out an inaccuracy, like in this case, the agency simply ignores the complaint or tells the complaining party to essentially f-off? If inaccurate data cannot be corrected by any other means, then the data quality act does exactly squat as far as correcting data goes.
7.12.2007 3:19pm
ronnie dobbs (mail):
Just in case you're doubting my motives, I strongly believe in drug legalization, including, but not limited to, marijuana (and for medical and recreational purposes).

With that out of the way, the fact that a topic is generally "controversial" as a matter of public opinion does not mean that it is the type of controversy between parties that makes it suitable for judicial redress. Rather, the complaining party needs to be able to show some kind of concrete, individualized harm--otherwise, the courts would be inundated with thousands of self-appointed inspectors general, suing to ensure that every government agency adheres strictly to its regulations. Perhaps more importantly, by requiring the plaintiff to show some kind of concrete, individualized injury, the court can be sure that the parties are properly motivated to litigate the controversy (i.e., no "patsies" who intentionally lose the case or seek to establish a precedent more useful in some other case). Additionally, courts need to be wary of stepping on the toes of the other branches of government, so it's also a matter of prudence to avoid rendering judgments on issues that haven't actually resulted in a concrete, individualized injury to any person. Generalized grievances are best dealt with by lobbying the elected persons in the executive and legislative branches.
7.12.2007 4:02pm
rarango (mail):
Hmm--perhaps the major health risk in MJ usage is the dreaded attack of the munchies which could conceivably increase your BMI--

I dont understand the opposition to MJ--in fact, we as a nation have already demonstrated the futility of prohibition in the 1920s--yet we continue to create all manner of social costs by criminalizing drug use. Saint Milton was correct on this issue.
7.12.2007 4:16pm
New World Dan (www):
rarango,

It's the conservative mentality. Just because something you believe in isn't working doesn't mean you quit. See drugs, abstinance and Iraq among others.
7.12.2007 4:27pm
whit:
riiiiiiiiiiight.

because that isn't consistent with the liberal mentality:

see: welfare, etc.
7.12.2007 4:36pm
byomtov (mail):
Ronnie Dobbs,

I understand your point, but fail to see why ASA, and patients who would benefit from medical marijuana, do not suffer individualized damage.

Telling ASA to lobby the executive is silly. The executive is the alleged wrongdoer here. Suppose they lobby for legislative change, as you suggest. Well, DEA's statement is going to influence some legislators who might otherwise support ASA.

More broadly, how does anyone make the executive obey the law? The legislature can't possibly prevent this sort of thing. You argue that the courts would be inundated with claims. So is Congress to inundate itself by trying to deal with corrective legislation?
7.12.2007 4:37pm
Kelvin McCabe:
Agrees with byomtov - although the logic can be strained, its precisely marijuana's schedule 1 designation in the controlled susbtances act that lets the dept of HHS claim that pot has "no currently acceptable medical use." All schedule 1 susbtances by definition have no medical use, otherwise they would be in a lower schedule. You cant change the schedule 1 status, however, without having access to the drug to study it to present legitimate science and argument for a rescheduling. The schedule 1's highly restrictive status simultanesouly allows the DEA to prevent scientists and doctors access to the marijuana to study it to prove it has any medical benefit. Thus, you have an endless merry go round where HHS says, get approval from DEA and come back with studies showing why it should be reclassified. DEA says, No we cant give you pot for that study. No studies = no reclassification. Its a rather large conspiracy of stupidity, but it exists.

Please see this related lawsuit which is also pending: http://www.maps.org/mmj/DEAlawsuit.html

The above cite gives the gory history and details of how the DEA in conjunction with other various Gov.t agencies keeps legitimate research from happening. Its quite fascinating. And shows just how far the Gov.t will go to suppress truth in this matter. Its mind boggling, to say the least.

Fortunately, since various states have legalized pot for medical use, doctors in those states (most notably california) have conducted positive peer reviewed studies (as well of course all the international studies showing the same medical potential of marijuana), outside of the DEA's monopoly on research grade pot (which by the way is super shitty; i actually met the florida stockbroker who gets cans of these pre-rolled government joints. Its super low quality and the only source for gov.t approved research. Imagine that). There are literally thousands of these positive studies now. So the walls are crashing in on the HHS and the DEA. Their shameful ignorance and obstruction of science and medical progress as well as flat out lying to the american people is hopefully coming to an end. But i wouldnt bet on it. The war on marijuana is the most ridiculous aspect of the war on some drugs and im sure the G wont go down without a fight. They have invested too much in the lie.
7.12.2007 6:39pm
BruceM (mail) (www):
The legislature should not be permitted to enact irrational laws or laws for irrational reasons. Anyone subject to such a law should have standing to contest it, and if they can prove by clear and convincing evidence that the law is irrational or based on irrational reasoning/data/conclusions, the law should be unconstitutional.

And I'm conceding quite a bit here, as I believe all laws should be presumed to be unconstitutional and the government should have to prove by clear and convincing evidence the law's constitutionality (which includes the fact that it has a rational basis). This should apply to all laws, not just equal protection issues with suspect classes. If the federal government bans blue golf carts from being sold "in or affecting interstate commerce" it should have a heavy burden of showing (1) the law does not exceed its authority under the commerce clause and (2) there is a rational basis for it. And anyone who plays golf, sells golf carts, buys golf carts, likes golf carts, enjoys riding in golf carts, owns a golf course, etc. should have standing to challenge the law.

95 percent of all laws should be found unconstitutional. Only about half a dozen laws per congressional session should be enacted. And most of those will be unnecessary anyway.

I can dream.

If someone brings a case to court, there is a case or controversy. Only if the plaintiff is a totally random person suing on behalf of someone else because they want to, and for no more compelling reason, should a case be thrown out for lack of standing.
7.12.2007 7:17pm
BruceM (mail) (www):
Also, if a court's decision would have real world implications, then it is not an advisory opinion. It really should not matter nor be dependent upon who the plaintiff is. If I sue to challenge a theoretical law, just to see if such a law would be constitutional if passed, then that would be an advisory opinion. But if the law actually exists, then standing to challenge it should never be an issue, except in the narrow situation i just described in my last post.
7.12.2007 7:19pm
Ryan Waxx (mail):
"shameful ignorance and obstruction of science" = "I'm not getting my pot brownies".

And they wonder why no one takes them seriously.
7.12.2007 7:53pm
TJIT (mail):
Ryan Waxx said,
"shameful ignorance and obstruction of science" = "I'm not getting my pot brownies".

And they wonder why no one takes them seriously.
I don't know about the rest of you but I found Ryan's meticulous research, buttressed with a copious amount of documentation and supporting links very persuasive.

I'm sure everyone takes Ryan very seriously at this point.
7.12.2007 8:23pm
Eli Rabett (www):
CEI has been a great user of the DQA and basically got what it wanted.
7.13.2007 1:15am