College Is Rebuffed In Request to Grow Medical Marijuana

The New York Times
December 14, 2004 Tuesday
SECTION: Section A; Column 1; National Desk; Pg. 29

HEADLINE: College Is Rebuffed In Request to Grow Medical Marijuana

A longstanding request to grow marijuana at the University of Massachusetts so it can be tested for medical uses has been turned down by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The decision was faxed to the university on Friday and made public yesterday by the Marijuana Policy Project, an independent group that favors legalization of marijuana, particularly for medical uses.

A spokeswoman for the D.E.A. said the agency would have no comment beyond its order, which gave the university 30 days to appeal.

The dispute is over marijuana in its smoked or vaporized form. Capsules of THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, one of the plant’s active ingredients, can be prescribed in many states for cancer and AIDS patients suffering nausea and appetite loss. But proponents of medical marijuana argue that the inhaled form is more effective and contains more than 50 active ingredients that the capsules do not.

In its order, drug agency said the lone government-licensed marijuana farm, operated by the University of Mississippi, grew enough for researchers. It said that 18 medical studies using the drug had been approved since 2000.

But Dr. Lyle E. Craker, the professor of plant biology at the University of Massachusetts who applied for the license three years ago, said researchers complained that the government’s marijuana was weak and that it was hard to get permission to use it.

”We wanted to have a source independent from the government and with a known potency so doctors can run clinical trials,” he said. Researchers would still have needed D.E.A. permission to work with the drug.

[ Note to readers: the NYT print version of this article ends here, The NYTimes on-line version continues below: ]

In its order, the agency said that after contacting researchers, it determined that the Mississippi crop was of “sufficient quantity and quality” to meet the researchers’ needs.

Advocates of medical marijuana complained that the D.E.A. had prejudged the results of clinical trials of smoked or vaporized marijuana before they could even be conducted.

The agency’s order said smoking “ultimately cannot be the permitted delivery system for any potential marijuana medication due to the deleterious effects and the difficulty in monitoring the efficaciousness.”

In 10 states, including California, patients with a doctor’s recommendation may smoke marijuana without fear of state prosecution. The federal government opposes those protections and has arrested users.

The New York Times reports that the DEA has rejected the application from UMass Amherst for a license to grow marijuana. The article notes that there is a 30 days period within which an appeal can be filed, which we will do.