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DEA Upholds Federal Marijuana Monopoly, Killing Privately-Funded Research

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obama cannabisThe Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) delivered yet another blow to privately funded medical marijuana research last week, despite the Obama administration’s promises to prioritize science over politics when it came to medical marijuana.

On Monday, August 15, 2011, the DEA issued its final order rejecting DEA Administrative Law Judge Mary Ellen Bittner’s recommendation that it would be in the public interest to grant University of Massachusetts, Amherst Prof. Lyle Craker a license to grow marijuana for federally regulated research. The rejection preserves the monopoly held by National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) on the supply of marijuana for Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-regulated research.

Prof. Craker first applied for the license in June 2001, over ten years ago. The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), a non-profit pharmaceutical company working to develop whole-plant marijuana into a prescription medicine, would provide the financial support for the proposed facility and FDA-regulated research. MAPS and Prof. Craker’s efforts are an attempt to bridge the gap between the 16 states that have legalized medical marijuana through political initiatives and federal policymakers who maintain that there is not enough FDA-regulated research to justify legal access.

cannabis scienceALJ Bittner issued her recommendation to license Prof. Craker on February 12, 2007, after extensive hearings. On January 14, 2009, almost two years later and six days before President Obama’s inauguration, DEA Acting Administrator Michelle Leonhartrejected the ALJ recommendation. In response, Prof. Craker’s lawyers filed a series of objections, which were denied in Monday’s final order. Prof. Craker’s only recourse is to appeal the DEA final ruling in the First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

According to the DEA’s interpretation of the Single Convention, there can be only one legal provider of marijuana for research inthe United States, and this role is presently filled by NIDA. ALJ Bittner’s 2007 recommendation, however, concluded that the DEA’s interpretation was flawed. Four other co-signors to the Single Convention–England, Canada, Israel, and the Netherlands–permit the private production of marijuana for research.

The DEA’s refusal to break NIDA’s monopoly on the supply of marijuana for research has direct implications for non-government-funded research. On April 28, 2011, the FDA cleared MAPS’ proposed study of marijuana for U.S. veterans with chronic, treatment-resistant posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). That same day, MAPS submitted the protocol for review by the Public Health Service (PHS) and NIDA, a procedure required for marijuana research because of the NIDA monopoly (but not for studies of any other controlled substance). Almost four months later, NIDA is still silent about whether it will agree to sell MAPS marijuana for the study. Without it, the study cannot go forward.

The DEA’s protection of NIDA’s monopoly has blocked privately funded medical marijuana research for four decades. Until the Obama administration instructs the DEA to change its tune, state-level medical marijuana reform efforts are the only way for patients to get safe and legal access to the medicine their physicians recommend.

For more information on MAPS’ and Dr. Craker’s efforts to obtain a DEA license, please visithttp://www.maps.org/research/mmj.

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5 Comments

  1. This is making it even harder for the states like Colorado that have licensed MMJ users and centers. Denver dispensary owners will probably always have to be watching for the DEA now…

  2. Tom Hillgardner on

    Until the stoner culture realizes that it needs to grow up if it wants to see cannabis legal, impediments to ending cannabis prohibition will arise from within the ranks of those who desire to see federal law change. Things such as the “SexPot” advertisement are counterproductive when serious individuals are dissuaded from disseminating information because the source, while credible, appears to behave childishly or crudely. The WeedBlog should reconsider its advertising policies if it seriously wants to help end cannabis prohibition.

  3. Exactly why I wrote the Colorado Relief for Possession of Cannabis Act 2012! Because Colorado business owners in the Cannabis Industry are not protected under Federal Law from prosecution and punishment and may never be, no matter how many long, complex laws and regulations are passed, either by the People or the legislature concerning cannabis. Here’s the question to be on the ballot:
    SHALL THE JUDICIARY BRANCH OF ALL GOVERNING BODIES IN THE STATE OF COLORADO PROHIBIT AND RELIEVE THEIR COURTS FROM IMPOSING ANY FINE OR SENTENCE FOR THE POSSESSION, AND CULTIVATION, AND SALE AND DISTRIBUTION OF CANNABIS?

  4. WeedScientist on

    I’d REALLY like to link to this article to send to my friendly neighborhood prohibitionists, so they can understand what kind of opposition we face. However, I am reluctant to do so since there is a gigantic SEXPOT ad with ridiculous cartoon bondage bikini babes directly over it. Is there some other site with a little more serious tone, where I can link to this very important article?

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