Congressman Mark Souder, Chairman of the U.S. House Government Reform Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy, and Human Resources, held a hearing about “Marijuana and Medicine: The Need for a Science-Based Approach.” MPP Executive Director Rob Kampia testified (video and transcript) and answered questions (video and transcript). During his comments, he discussed the importance of MAPS’ vaporizer research efforts as well as the UMass Amherst project.
March 19, 2004. Dr. Donald Abrams receives word that his FDA-approved Phase I vaporizer study is now ready to enroll subjects. He will be comparing cannabinoid and carbon monoxide levels and subjective effects in subjects who at different times inhale either marijuana smoke from a burning cigarette or marijuana vapors from the Volcano vaporizer. Being able to use a vaporizer in FDA-approved clinical trials is one of MAPS’ two prerequisites to justifying the expense of a $5 million effort to develop marijuana into an FDA-approved prescription medicine, the other prerequisite being an independent source of supply of marijuana for research other than using material from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
March 17, 2004. In an effort to find out what is going on with the Health and Human Services (HHS) review of the scientific merit of the vaporizer protocol, an exchange of email took place today between Willem Scholten, Head of the Dutch Office of Medicinal Cannabis and Rear Admiral, Assistant Surgeon General and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health (Operations) Arthur J. Lawrence. Willem Scholten inquired about the status of the review.
Dr. Lawrence replied that the responsibility for the review was being shifted from his office and at the moment he didn’t know exactly to where or what was going on. He was, however, sure that, ” this protocol will, as all proposed protocols for this sort of research are, be given fullest consideration and deliberation in the scientific review.”
Somewhat dissatisfied with the review seemingly being on the slow track to nowhere, MAPS President Rick Doblin replied to Dr. Lawrence. He requested whatever help Dr. Lawrence could offer in expediting the review, noting that the protocol was first submitted for review on June 24, 2003 and that all we were asking for was to purchase 10 grams of NIDA marijuana and import 10 grams from the Dutch. He concluded by stating, “The vaporizer research project is part of MAPS’ efforts to work through the rigorous FDA drug review process to conduct exactly the sort of studies that DEA, ONDCP, NIDA, IOM, all claim to want to see conducted. Given the difficulties in purchasing a tiny amount of marijuana for this simple vaporizer research protocol, it should not be surprising why so many States have gone ahead and legalized the medical use of marijuana in one form or another without waiting for the FDA to approve its medical use on the basis of double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled research.”
Also, Dr. Scholten informed MAPS that some vaporizer research with the same Volcano device was being conducted in the Netherlands. We’ve sent a message to the researcher and look forward to collaborating and sharing information.
January 29, 2004. The scientific review of the vaporizer protocol being conduced by the federal Dept. of Health and Human Services is now being supervised by Assistant Surgeon General Arthur J. Lawrence Ph.D. Mr. Joel Egertson, senior drug policy advisor to the Secretary of HHS, has retired and the responsibility for the review has been reassigned. A revised and updated package of information has been submitted today by Chemic Labs to Assistant Surgeon General Lawrence. If HHS determines that the vaporizer protocol is scientifically meritorious, NIDA will agree to sell us 10 grams of marijuana and DEA will be required to address our request to import 10 grams of marijuana from the Dutch Office of Medicinal Cannabis. The protocol is a rigorous investigation and, if reviewed in an unbiased manner, will be determined to be scientifically meritorious. MAPS initially requested permission in June 2003 to purchase marijuana from NIDA and import marijuana from the Dutch. This delay is clear evidence why NIDA’s monopoly on supply of research marijuana serves more to obstruct than to facilitate marijuana research.
December 16, 2003. MAPS received a grant of $13,000 for further vaporizer research from the Marijuana Policy Project. The grant includes $5,000 for the writing of a scientific paper about the results of the research for submission to a journal indexed in Medline. Also included is $8,000 for a study of the cannabinoid content of each of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd balloons created by the Volcano vaporizer from the same sample of marijuana. We want to see if we can eliminate the use of the 3rd balloon in clinical research if only minimal amounts of cannabinoids are released the third time the same sample is heated and vaporized. This study can be conducted only after we have been able to obtain approval from HHS to purchase 10 grams of marijuana from NIDA, a time-consuming hurdle that wouldn’t be necessary if MAPS had its own independent source of supply of marijuana that could be used in federally-approved research (as we have with MDMA and psilocybin, for example).
December 4, 2003. The manufacturers of the Volcano vaporizer that MAPS and CaNORML are using in our vaporizer research, STORZ & BICKEL GMBH & CO. KG, announce that they have received the Dr. Rudolf Eberle Prize, the prize for innovation of the State of Baden-Wurttemberg. This prize has been awarded on an annual basis since 1985 to small and medium-sized industrial and craft firms who have successfully implemented outstanding technical innovations. The prize committee uses the criteria of technical progress, special entrepreneurial achievement and the economic success of the innovation to make its decision.
November 14, 2003. Vaporizer protocol likely to start early in 2004. According to Dr. Donald Abrams, “As far as I know we are awaiting our award from CMCR. All approvals are granted and we plan to commence the vaporizer protocol in January 2004.”
October 10, 2003. The analytical lab conducting the vaporizer research has received replies from NIDA and the DEA regarding its requests to import 10 grams of marijuana from the Dutch Office of Medicinal Cannabis and to purchase 10 grams from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (see entry below for June 24, 2003). The reply from NIDA came from Joel Egertson, Senior Drug Policy Advisor to the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). Mr. Egertson wrote, “It has been determined that there is insufficient information in the application to judge the merits of the proposal. ” Mr. Egerston had been submitted the protocol for which the 10 grams was requested but asked for additional information that has already been generated from previous research protocols and has already been submitted to the FDA. This additional information will be submitted to Mr. Egerston very soon for HHS review.
The reply from DEA indicated that it would not proceed with the import permit until the scientific merits of the protocol had been accepted by HHS.
While a decision on these requests has been delayed, we believe we can adequately address all the issues raised by HHS and DEA. Yet again, this prolonged process to purchase tiny quantities of marijuana for important privately-funded research demonstrates the need for MAPS to sponsor a privately-funded facility to produce marijuana for federally-approved research, as we are attempted to do in partnership with Prof. Craker at UMass Amherst.
June 24, 2003. Grant for Vaporizer Study with Humans Approved Contingent upon Regulatory Approval. California’s Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research (CMCR) preliminarily approved Dr. Donald Abrams’ Phase I vaporizer research protocol and grant application, amounting to slightly more than $137,000, contingent upon the protocol obtaining all the necessary regulatory approvals. The study will compare subjective effects, cannabinoid blood levels and carbon monoxide levels in exhaled breath in subjects on six different days, three days smoking 400 mgs of marijuana of either 1.7 % THC, 3.5% THC or 7% THC, and three days vaporizing 400 mgs of marijuana of either 1.7 % THC, 3.5% THC or 7% THC.
The protocol now goes to FDA for its review, finally. The big question is whether the FDA will want more data than MAPS and California NORML have already gathered on the Volcano (www.vapormed.de) or will accept the data we have already submitted, which is more than FDA has about what is in marijuana smoke post-combustion. We should hear from FDA within 4-6 weeks or so.
Also reviewing the protocol will be NIDA (since NIDA pot is being requested), DEA (supposedly to see what it can do to prevent the diversion of research supplies), and the Research Advisory Panel of California (which reviews all Schedule I research in California). The key review will be by FDA, since it will decide whether or not MAPS and California NORML need to raise more funds for additional vaporizer research.
June 24, 2003. Maps Working to Import Dutch Cannabis for Research. MAPS has completed negotiations with the head of the Dutch Office of Medicinal Cannabis for the importation of ten grams of high THC, high CBD marijuana for use in the next phase of the vaporizer research project. Chemic Laboratories, where the project will be conducted, has submitted an application to the DEA for an import license. This request to the DEA is, to our knowledge, the first attempt to import the marijuana plant from the Netherlands, through the newly established Office of Medicinal Cannabis. Chemic Laboratories has also submitted a request to NIDA for ten grams of its best quality product for the vaporizer project.
California NORML/ MAPS Press Release — May 2, 2003
Dale Gieringer, Ph.D. (email@example.com)
MAPS Bulletin, Spring 2003; Volume XIII, Number 1
April 15, 2003. Vaporizer Study Report. The Vaporizer report is now available. The findings show substantial reduction (about 99%) in certain toxins in the vapor as compared to marijuana smoke, and substantial amounts of cannabinoids produced by the vaporizer. The results could hardly have been better. This report has been submitted to FDA as part of Dr. Donald Abrams’ IND application to study subjective effects and cannabinoid blood levels in subjects who both smoke marijuana and then at a later time inhale marijuana vapors. We should hear from FDA in early May about what additional information, if any, it needs to have before deciding if the vaporizer can be used in a clinical trial.
January 21, 2003. MAPS and CANorml sign a contract for a $25,000 protocol study to evaluate the contents of the vapor stream from the Volcano Vaporizer (http://www.vapormed.de). The purpose of the study is stated in the contract as follows: This protocol is intended to provide guidance on the completion of an extraction evaluation of emissions produced when marijuana is vaporized using the Volcano; to provide evidence of product efficiency to MAPS, which would subsequently design and seek agency (FDA) approval for the protocol development and initiation of a Phase I clinical investigation comparing cannabinoid blood levels in subjects smoking (i.e. pyrolysis) marijuana versus marijuana vaporized with the Volcano, and to meet the requirements of cGMP: 21 CFR Part 160.
We expect the study to be completed by the end of March 2003.