LA Times: The Science of Pot

Los Angeles Times
March 10, 2009 Tuesday
Home Edition

The science of pot

SECTION: MAIN NEWS; Editorial pages Desk; Part A; Pg. 24
LENGTH: 403 words

At the heart of the debate about marijuana’s medicinal value is a dearth of
academic research into its therapeutic properties. For 40 years, the federal
government has frustrated such study by restricting cultivation of marijuana
for research to a single source, the University of Mississippi. Most
recently, the Bush administration denied the application of a well-regarded
botanist at the University of Massachusetts to establish another cultivation
facility, despite a ruling by an administrative law judge determining that
it should go forward.

For eight years, professor Lyle Craker has struggled to obtain a license
from the Drug Enforcement Administration to grow research-grade cannabis.
His proposal is to supply marijuana to DEA-approved researchers who have
undergone a rigorous review and approval process by the U.S. Public Health
Service, and whose protocols have been approved by the Food and Drug
Administration. The DEA, however, has behaved as if this serious scientist
wants to start a backyard plot for campus parties.

In February 2007, after nine days of testimony from expert witnesses and
administration officials, light broke through the DEA’s bureaucratic murk:
Administrative Law Judge Mary Ellen Bittner issued an 87-page opinion saying
that the supply of marijuana from the University of Mississippi is
insufficient in quality and quantity and that Craker’s project should go
forward. In a case study of governmental intransigence, the DEA dithered for
two years. Then, a few days before the Obama administration took power,
acting Administrator Michele Leonhart issued a final order denying Craker’s

Members of Congress have urged Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. to amend or
overrule the order, and he should do so. Then he should go further and
change the culture of the agency. Instead of thwarting the advancement of
science, the DEA should encourage cannabis research. As California and the
U.S. government continue to debate the future of medical marijuana, what we
need is a body of work on the drug’s efficacy in treating a variety of
illnesses and conditions.

Instead, we have a collection of small studies and individual testimony. On
Monday, President Obama signed a “scientific integrity presidential
memorandum” and promised that his administration would base its public
policies on science, not politics; the DEA is one of many federal agencies
ready for enlightenment.

The Los Angeles Times editorialized in favor of DEA licensing of Prof. Craker’s medical marijuana production facility, citing as support President Obama’s March 9, 2009 statement about scientific integrity. The LA Times editorial said, "DEA is one of the many federal agencies ready for enlightenment."