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DEA Appears To Stand Down On Gateway Drug Theory

Cannabis activists are celebrating yet another victory in the War on Drugs. This week, the DEA's website removed a 40+ page publication that contained misinformation about marijuana -- including the dubious gateway drug theory, which alleges that smoking marijuana leads to hard drug abuse. The change is being celebrated as a huge win for Americans for Safe Access (ASA), a nonprofit advocacy group promoting medical marijuana treatment and research.

Last year, ASA filed a legal request calling on the DEA to remove more than 25 factually inaccurate pieces of information from their website. The deleted article contained 23 of those claims, including the "gateway drug theory" as well as claims that marijuana causes irreversible cognitive decline in adults and contributes to psychosis and lung cancer. The ASA argued that those claims violate the Information Quality Act.

Rather than defending the article in court, the DEA appears to have backed down.

“This is a victory for medical cannabis patients across the nation, who rely on cannabis to treat serious illnesses," Steph Sherer -- Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access -- said in a press release. "The federal government now admits that cannabis is not a gateway drug, and doesn’t cause long-term brain damage, or psychosis. While the fight to end stigma around cannabis is far from over, this is a big first step.”

But more work needs to be done. Although that mammoth document has been removed, other publications on the site continue to paint cannabis in a negative light -- including the subtly titled article Marijuana: The Myths Are Killing Us (2005), which perpetuates the "gateway drug theory." As does a 2011 article on drug enforcement in Montana. That's why ASA hasn't rescinded its legal challenge to the DEA's website.

“We are pleased that in the face of our request the DEA withdrew some of the damaging misinformation from its website,” said Vicki Freeman -- ASA's legal representative. "However, the DEA continues to disseminate many damaging facts about the health risks of medical cannabis and patients across the country face ongoing harm as a result of these alternative facts. 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.”

And the reference to "alternate facts" isn't the only potshot that ASA took at the Trump Administration. The group also called on the DEA to set the record straight so that new Attorney General Jeff Sessions -- an outspoken opponent of marijuana legalization -- does his job properly.

“It is crucial that the DEA correct its inaccurate statements, especially in light of Senator Jeff Sessions’  confirmation as Attorney General of the United States," ASA wrote in a recent letter to the DEA. "As the top law enforcement official in the nation, Mr. Sessions must have access to accurate information based on current scientific data in order to make informed decisions regarding the enforcement (or non-enforcement) of federal drug laws.  Allowing Mr. Sessions to make law enforcement decisions based on biased, out-of-date information does a tremendous disservice to ASA’s members and the American people at large.”

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