January 14, 2009

DEA Rejects Medical Marijuana Research Lab Request

A researcher's request to open what would have been the nation's second federally approved medical marijuana research lab was flatly declined by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

Lyle Craker, a University of Massachusetts, Amherst horticulturist requested permission to grow the marijuana for research funded by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), a California nonprofit that wants to develop marijuana into a legal prescription medication.

DEA Administrative Law Judge Mary Ellen Bittner recommended in 1997 that Craker's application be granted on the basis that there wasn't enough marijuana available for research purposes.

Judge Bittner argued that there was "minimal" chance marijuana grown in the proposed lab would be used for non-research reasons.

But the DEA decision called the current supply of research marijuana "adequate and uninterrupted" and said a second laboratory would not be in the public interest.

Marijuana has been used to lower pressure buildup in glaucoma (a potentially blinding eye disease), to reduce nausea from cancer treatments and to prevent AIDS-related weight loss.

The only federally approved laboratory for such research is located at the University of Mississippi's School of Pharmacy, which has grown nearly a hundred varieties of marijuana plants since 1968.

Access to the plants has been limited to researchers who gain federal permits. The plants have been used for clinical studies across the country.

Craker issued a statement saying he was saddened that the DEA is ignoring the best interests of so many seriously ill people who wish for scientific investigations that could lead to development of the marijuana plant as a prescription medicine.

"Patients with serious illnesses deserve legitimate research that might establish medical marijuana as a fully legal, FDA-approved treatment. That effort has been dealt a serious blow," he stated.

A spokesman for the DEA declined comment on the decision.

"The move is politically motivated and part of a cynical attempt to maintain the Bush administration's elevation of politics over science," said Allen Hopper, the ACLU drug-reform project's litigation director.

Many researchers claim that access to the University of Mississippi's laboratory supply is thwarted by a contract it holds with the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which must approve permits issued by the FDA or the DEA"”a process that can often take months to complete.

However, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a Belmont-based drug research group that wants to fund Craker's marijuana cultivation has stated it will file another suit or appeal to the Obama administration.


The bud of a marijuana plant grown by George and Jean Hanamoto is seen at their home in the Mendocino County community of Willits, Calif., Wednesday, May 28, 2008.  Under a law passed in 2000, allows county residents to grow up to 25 marijuana plants for medical, recreational or personal use.   A measure before county voters in the June 3 primary would scale back the law allowing only six plants to be grown.  George Hanamoto, 74, who uses marijuana to relieve glaucoma and for back pain, said cutting plant limits would hurt people like him because growing conditions mean he can't always get the maximum out of each plant.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)


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