| UMass prof seeks pot permit
August 28, 2003
A University of Massachusetts plant and soil sciences professor has applied to the federal government to grow high-quality marijuana for medicinal research.
The U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration is seeking comments by Sept. 22 – but only from a limited category of people – before ruling on the proposal.
If approved, UMass would be the only other legal grower of marijuana for research purposes besides the University of Mississippi, which has supplied the National Institute on Drug Abuse with marijuana for 30 years.
Lyle Craker, director of the medicinal plant program at UMass, first applied to the DEA in June 2001, for permission to grow an initial 25 pounds of high-potency marijuana. It would be supplied to government-approved researchers working on therapies for treating symptoms of AIDS, glaucoma and multiple sclerosis and in alleviating pain and other side effects of chemotherapy.
Craker proposes to grow the marijuana, a more potent grade than that grown in Mississippi, in a secure building on campus. He would receive funding from the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a Florida-based nonprofit research and educational organization that seeks to develop marijuana as a prescription medication approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
“My current thought is that there has not been sufficient testing to tell whether this is a drug that can help people or not,” Craker said. “If I look at this as a potential medicinal plant, than it is our responsibility to see that this plant material is investigated, so that the questions of whether it has medical significance or not can be answered.”
Craker said he has been working closely with DEA officials from Connecticut, some of whom visited the Amherst campus in December to review the specifics of his application, but it is unclear how or when the DEA will rule. “There is a lot of pressure (to oppose his application), and they’re trying to respond to that in an honest way,” Craker said.
Public notice of Craker’s application in the July 24, 2003, Federal Register limits those people who may file comments or objections to his plan to “any person who is presently registered with DEA to manufacture such substances…”
Massachusetts Congressmen John Olver, Barney Frank, James McGovern, William Delahunt and Michael Capuano, who support Craker’s proposal, wrote to DEA Administrator Asa Hutchinson in June 2002, urging the agency to license privately funded sources of marijuana.
In a prepared statement issued Wednesday, Olver said, “I urge the Drug Enforcement Administration to grant UMass Amherst a license to manufacture marijuana for scientific and medical uses approved by the FDA and DEA. Further scientific research into the risks and benefits of the potential uses of marijuana would be in the best interest of all medical patients and their families.”
Referring to the potential therapeutic benefits of marijuana, Olver added, “I believe that individuals who are seriously ill should have access to marijuana in order to ease their pain. Common sense dictates that we should do everything in our power to provide treatment for victims of diseases like cancer and AIDS, including allowing them to have access to this treatment that has been shown to relieve suffering.”
But in his July 1, 2002, response addressed to Frank, Hutchinson argued against expanding the number of marijuana producers, saying that, “For more than 30 years, the University of Mississippi has produced an adequate supply to meet the entire United States demand for research-grade marijuana. There is no indication that this supply is currently inadequate or will become inadequate in the future.”
Mary Carey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
An article was published in GazetteNet in which Rep. Olver (D-MA) (from the Amherst area) issues a statement supporting the MAPS/UMass Amherst application.