Wed, Jan 14, 2009 - Page 7 News List

US drug agency denies professor’s bid to grow marijuana for medical research

HIGHER EDUCATION The professor has won support from Massachusetts senators Edward Kennedy and John Kerry as well as several other members of Congress


The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has rejected a petition by a University of Massachusetts-Amherst professor to let him grow marijuana for medical research.

The DEA’s Jan. 7 ruling said Lyle Craker, a horticulturist who heads the university’s medicinal plant program, failed to demonstrate that the government’s longtime monopoly on producing and distributing the drug for medical research was “inadequate.”

DEA spokesman Garrison Courtney on Monday confirmed the ruling, but declined further comment.

Craker challenged the government’s monopoly on research marijuana. A lab at the University of Mississippi is the government’s only marijuana-growing facility.

The suit claimed government-grown marijuana lacks the potency medical researchers need to make important breakthroughs. He also alleged there wasn’t enough of the drug freely available for scientists across the country to work with.

The professor has won support from Massachusetts Senators Edward Kennedy and John Kerry as well as several other members of Congress.

Craker in 2001 submitted an application as a marijuana manufacturer to the DEA.

A federal administrative law judge in 2007 recommended to the DEA that it grant Craker’s application to grow marijuana in bulk for use by scientists in Food and Drug Administration-approved research.

That nonbinding ruling said the government’s supply was inadequate for medical research.

The timing of the decision and the nearly two years it took to make it were criticized by Rick Doblin, president of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a nonprofit group that does research on psychedelic drugs and whose goal is to develop psychedelics and marijuana into prescription medication.

“The ruling today is really bad because the [US President George W.] Bush administration must be aware that the [US president-elect Barack] Obama administration ... has said that science will be used more as a tool for decision making,” instead of the ideology, said Doblin, whose group sponsored Craker’s license application.

DEA attorneys have defended the government’s marijuana, saying its Mississippi growing center provides adequate quality and quantity for legitimate researchers.

Craker has said his case has been hurt by DEA concerns about the drug falling into student hands. He said he was confident security measures could be used at the university to prevent that from happening.

Craker and Doblin said they were not surprised by the decision by the agency whose policy is to prevent members of the public from accessing marijuana.

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