Clear the Road for Medical Marijuana Scientific Research

March 15, 2009 at 11:15 am Leave a comment

Poor Professor Lyle Craker. All he wants is a license from the DEA that will allow him to grow marijuana for scientific, research purposes. Guess what the DEA refuses to give him?

Craker, of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, intends to use this marijuana for research – probably into one of its many medical uses, like the treatment of cancer, HIV/AIDS, Crohn’s disease, or Multiple Sclerosis. This isn’t news; he’s been asking for this permit for a few years.

Currently, all marijuana used for research purposes must be provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which is a federally run organization. Recall what you may have learned Economics 101: if there is only one (legal) provider of a good/service, the situation is known as a monopoly. The NIDA claims that their supply is large enough, but people like Craker disagree.

The only way to advance the cause of medicinal marijuana is through scientific research (because  the 17,000+ existing studies apparently don’t count). And if research is blocked, then, well, we’re at a standstill – at least until something changes.

For this reason, the Drug Policy Alliance asks that you send a letter to ensure that Obama acts to protect scientific resarch. Full text of the letter after the jump.

We are writing to urge your administration to ensure the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) takes immediate action to respond to new evidence in the matter of University of Massachusetts at Amherst Professor Lyle Craker, PhD (Docket No. 05-16). Please make sure the DEA grants the Request for Opportunity to Respond to New Officially Noticed Evidence and Motion for Reconsideration.

We are concerned that DEA’s recent actions in this matter violate the spirit of the January 20, 2009 memo from your Chief of Staff to the heads of all executive departments and agencies. We urge you to see that the DEA acts swiftly to amend or withdraw the Final Order in this matter to permit your new Deputy Attorney General and DEA appointees to review Prof. Craker’s application on its merits, once they are in office.

As you know, the University of Massachusetts-Amherst is one of the nation’s distinguished research universities. Since 2001, Prof. Lyle Craker, an experienced botanist of medicinal plants and soils, has been struggling to obtain a DEA license for a privately-funded facility located at the University of Massachusetts to grow cannabis (marijuana) exclusively for FDA-approved research protocols designed to evaluate its potential medical value. Forty-five members ofthe House of Representatives and Senators Edward Kennedy and John Kerry, as well as a broad range of scientific, medical and public health organizations including the Lymphoma Foundation of America, the National Association for Public Health Policy, and the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation have all written to DEA in support of Professor Craker’s efforts.

On February 12, 2007, after nine days of testimony from expert witnesses and administration officials, DEA’s Administrative Law Judge Mary Ellen Bittner issued an 87-page Opinion and Recommended Ruling which concluded that the current sole-supply of cannabis by NIDA was insufficient for the level of research that cannabis deserves and that facilitating advanced clinical research was “in the public interest.” The ALJ decision left no doubt that Prof. Craker’s and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst are highly qualified to manufacture marijuana for legitimate medical and research purposes with effective controls against diversion.

After almost two more years of delay and less than one week before the change in Presidential Administrations, Deputy Administrator Leonhart published in the Federal Register an eleventh-hour final order rejecting the ALJ recommendation and denying Professor Craker’s application. However, in her final order, the Deputy Administrator relied upon new evidence that was not part of the administrative record in this matter.

Prof. Craker has requested 60 days in which to present additional documentary evidence, live testimony and argument refuting and in opposition to the evidence officially noticed. Fundamentally, what Professor Craker seeks is an essential component of due process: an adequate opportunity to respond to, refute and show the contrary of material new evidence that does not appear in the record of this proceeding, but which was nonetheless officially noticed by DEA in issuing its published Order denying Prof. Craker’s application. I encourage you and your staff to support policies that respect due process and advance scientific integrity. 



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