Pubdate: Fri, 26 Aug 2005
Source: Boston Phoenix (MA)
Copyright: 2005 The Phoenix Media/Communications Group.
Author: Mike Miliard
Cited: Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)
Bookmark: ( Raich v. Ashcroft)


A Second Chance For Medical Marijuana

Dr. Lyle Craker, a professor of plant and soil sciences at UMass
Amherst, has been trying since 2001 to get a license from the Drug
Enforcement Administration (DEA) to grow research-grade marijuana for
use in Food and Drug Administration-approved studies of the plant's
potential to become a legally prescribed medicine.

Last December, after more than three years of stonewalling, the DEA
officially rejected his application, holding that his study "would not
be consistent with the public interest." (See "Up in Smoke," This Just
In, December 17, 2004.)

Now Craker, along with the Belmont-based Multidisciplinary Association
for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) and the ACLU's Drug Law Reform Project,
is challenging that ruling.

Hearings began in Washington this week before DEA administrative-law
judge Mary Ellen Bittner. Supporters hope the proceedings will end the
DEA's obstruction and remove the federal government's monopoly on
research marijuana.

In the wake of the Raich v. Ashcroft decision in June, in which the
Supreme Court affirmed that federal law supersedes state law in
matters of drug enforcement, FDA approval is really the only avenue
left for medical marijuana. Before that can happen, there must be
studies into its safety and efficacy. "We have considerable lay
information about the potential health benefits of this plant
material, but we lack the scientific studies that are necessary to
prove the value of medicine," Craker told the Phoenix in December.
"The first step in that is producing quality plant material that will
have bioactive constituents in it."

But at the moment, all marijuana used for research in the US comes
from a closely monitored crop maintained by the National Institute on
Drug Abuse (NIDA). The complainants in the Craker case maintain that
the supply is insufficient, and of inadequate quality, for proper
research - let alone for prescription sale should the FDA ever approve
it. Moreover, the feds are stingy in distributing the plants.

MAPS president Rick Doblin says that just last week, NIDA refused to
provide 10 grams of marijuana for a MAPS-sponsored vaporizer study at
Chemic Labs in Canton.

Last month, Democratic Massachusetts representatives John Olver and
Michael Capuano sent a letter to DEA administrator Karen Tandy,
expressing "strong support" for issuing Dr. Craker's license and
pointing out that NIDA's monopoly makes little sense since the DEA has
licensed privately funded production of other Schedule I drugs, such
as MDMA and LSD. (MAPS has funded studies using independently produced
MDMA and psilocybin.)

"The government is basically scared of this research," says Doblin,
during a break in testimony. "They want it two ways. They want to say
there's not enough research to make marijuana into a medicine, and
they want to block the research." Still, he feels reasonably confident
that the DEA's decision might be reversed. "My sense is that the judge
is fair, she's asking good questions, I have a lot of respect for the
way she's interacted with us so far." Time will tell if his optimism
is well-founded. There will be another week of testimony toward the
end of September, and another (if need be) in December, before Judge
Bittner makes a recommendation to the head of the DEA. In the
meantime, Doblin will be commenting nightly on the goings-on in
Washington at
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin