Pubdate: Wed, 21 Feb 2007
Source: St. Petersburg Times (FL)
Copyright: 2007 St. Petersburg Times
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)
Bookmark: (Lyle Craker)


Disingenuousness is a specialty of the Drug Enforcement 
Administration when it comes to the issue of medical marijuana.

The federal government likes to claim that there is little scientific 
proof that smoking marijuana is therapeutic and relieves patient 
suffering. Yet much of the research that legitimate academic and 
medical scientists have tried to conduct to confirm the anecdotal 
evidence of marijuana's benefits has been stymied through tight 
federal supplies of legal marijuana available for testing purposes.

Former DEA Administrator Robert Bonner once told supporters of 
medical marijuana that they would "serve society better by promoting 
or sponsoring more legitimate scientific research" rather than using 
the political process to make it legal. Of course, Bonner knew at the 
time that it was his agency that had helped block that research.

Since 1968, all federally approved scientists have had to get their 
marijuana from the University of Mississippi, a source that 
researchers have complained is inadequate in quantity and quality. In 
2001, Lyle Craker, a University of Massachusetts professor of plant 
biology, sought approval to cultivate marijuana for medical study. 
The agency turned him down, but a DEA administrative law judge ruled 
this month that it "would be in the public interest" to allow Craker 
to grow the plants.

The 87-page ruling followed a nine-day hearing in which researchers 
recounted how the federal government rejected their requests for 
marijuana in FDA-approved research. Administrative law Judge Mary 
Ellen Bittner found that "an inadequate supply" of marijuana is 
available for research purposes. Her ruling is nonbinding. But the 
DEA should follow its sensible dictates and allow added licensed 
growers to increase supplies.

Private laboratories have been allowed to produce controlled 
substances such as LSD, "Ecstasy," heroin and cocaine for research 
purposes. Only marijuana has been limited to a single supplier. It 
also happens to be the drug most likely to prove benefits for 
patients suffering from a host of ailments. Twelve states have 
approved access to medical marijuana for patients who have a doctor's 
recommendation. Yet, even in those states the DEA continues to treat 
its use as criminal.

For too long federal policy toward marijuana has been grounded in 
politics rather than science. By keeping such a tight rein on 
supplies, it almost appears as though the DEA is afraid of what 
medical science will discover when marijuana is finally put to the test.
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