Medical Marijuana Research Update: February 2005

A new medical marijuana DEA Administrative Law Judge hearing was formally launched on Monday, February 7. Prof. Lyle Craker, UMass Amherst, filed a request for a hearing about DEA’s proposed rejection of his application for a license to establish a MAPS-sponsored facility to produce marijuana exclusively for federally-approved research. Our goal is to break the government’s monopoly on the supply of marijuana that can be used in FDA-approved research, thereby creating the proper conditions for a $5 million, 5 year drug development effort designed to transform smoked and/or vaporized marijuana into an FDA-approved prescription medicine.

MAPS has arranged for a consortium of lawyers to represent Prof. Craker on a pro-bono basis. These lawyers include lead counsel Julie Carpenter of Jenner and Block (DC law firm), Allen Hopper, ACLU Drug Law Reform Project, and Emanuel Jacobowitz of Steptoe & Johnson (DC law firm). The estimated value of this pro-bono support is more than $100,000.

Within about a week, the DEA ALJ office will issue a timetable for the submission of prehearing statements, with DEA being given 3 weeks and Prof. Craker being given 6 weeks, ending about March 28 or so. The ALJ will then review the prehearing statements and schedule a meeting with the lawyers to discuss the scope of the case, probably taking place sometime in April. At that meeting, the date for the hearing itself will be set. Most likely, the hearing will take two days and take place in DC in late spring/early summer.

The two main issues to be argued are 1) whether it is in the public interest for there to be a facility at UMass Amherst producing marijuana for federally-approved research and 2) whether US international treaty obligations permit DEA to issue a license to a privately-funded production facility.

It took suing the DEA for “unreasonable delay” in the DC Circuit Court of Appeals to get DEA to finally reject Prof. Craker’s application, after 3 1/2 years of delay. We’re delighted to have finally gotten the opportunity to argue this issue on the merits.