Statement of Allen Hopper, Attorney With the ACLU Drug Law Reform Project

The ACLU has joined in the representation of Professor Craker because we believe that scientists and doctors should be free to pursue the truth about all drugs and to conduct legitimate research without government obstruction or censorship based on the politics of the drug war. We believe that the public has a right to know the truth about the drugs and medicines they consume. And we believe that sick people have a right to safely access the medicines their doctors say they need to save their lives or alleviate pain; they should not have to buy these drugs off the street. Patients throughout America are already benefiting from medical marijuana, but we need further research to turn that into a safe, affordable, predictable and reasonably attainable treatment.

We anticipate a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court any day now in the Raich v. Ashcroft case. During the Raich oral arguments in November of last year, Justice Breyer told one of Angel Raich’s attorneys that his clients should ask the Food and Drug Administration to reclassify marijuana as appropriate for medical use. Justice Breyer said, “I guess medicine by regulation is better than medicine by referendum.”

We’d like to take Justice Breyer up on his suggestion. The problem, though, is that the federal government has set up a classic Catch-22: They say we need more research to establish the safety and efficacy of marijuana as a medicine, yet at the same time they obstruct that very research. One of the primary ways in which the federal government has kept medical marijuana research from moving forward is through the monopoly the National Institute of Drug Abuse has on marijuana that can legally be used for research. No other controlled substance – LSD, ecstasy, psilocybin – is subject to this absurd NIDA monopoly. All other controlled substances can be procured by scientists from any number of DEA-licensed laboratories once their research protocol has been approved by the FDA. Yet with marijuana, even after the FDA approves a research protocol and grants permission for a study to go forward, NIDA has virtually unfettered discretion to decide whether or not to provide the marijuana necessary for the research. And time after time we’ve seen NIDA refuse to provide marijuana for legitimate, FDA-approved research due to the politics of the government’s “war on drugs.”

Under the current regulatory scheme, the only realistic way that scientists will be able to conduct the research necessary to evaluate marijuana’s safety and effectiveness as a medicine is to develop an alternative source to NIDA for providing marijuana for research. That is what Dr. Craker is seeking permission to do. It’s allowed under the law, if the DEA will grant Dr. Craker the license he seeks, which the DEA is required to do if granting the license would be in the public interest. We intend to prove through the testimony of scientists, doctors and patients that it is indeed in the public interest to grant Dr. Craker’s application.

The government is afraid of the truth about marijuana: that it may be safe and effective under some circumstances for medical purposes. The government is placing ideology above science and above the safety and well-being of sick and dying patients. With Dr. Craker’s legal challenge we hope to expose and begin to change that sad but true fact.