DEA rejects UMass professors bid to grow marijuana for medical research

Star Tribune (Minneapolis-St. Paul)

DEA rejects UMass professor’s bid to grow marijuana for medical research

By ANDREW MIGA , Associated Press (Associated Press Writer Rodrique Ngowi contributed to this report from Boston.)
Last update: January 12, 2009 – 7:29 PM
WASHINGTON – The Drug Enforcement Administration has rejected a petition by a University of Massachusetts-Amherst professor to let him grow marijuana for medical research.
The DEA’s Jan. 7 ruling said Lyle Craker, a horticulturist who heads the university’s medicinal plant program, failed to demonstrate that the government’s longtime monopoly on producing and distributing the drug for medical research was “inadequate.”
DEA spokesman Garrison Courtney on Monday confirmed the ruling, but declined further comment.
Craker challenged the government’s monopoly on research marijuana. A lab at the University of Mississippi is the government’s only marijuana-growing facility.
Craker’s suit claimed government-grown marijuana lacks the potency medical researchers need to make important breakthroughs. He also alleged there wasn’t enough of the drug freely available for scientists across the country to work with.
The professor has won support from Massachusetts Sens. Edward Kennedy and John Kerry as well as several other members of Congress.
Craker in 2001 submitted an application as a marijuana manufacturer to the DEA.
A federal administrative law judge in 2007 recommended to the DEA that it grant Craker’s application to grow marijuana in bulk for use by scientists in Food and Drug Administration-approved research. That nonbinding ruling said the government’s supply was inadequate for medical research.
The timing of the decision and the nearly two years it took to make it were criticized by Rick Doblin, president of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a nonprofit group that does research on psychedelic drugs and whose goal is to develop psychedelics and marijuana into prescription medication.
“The ruling today is really bad because the Bush administration must be aware that the Obama administration … has said that science will be used more as a tool for decision making,” instead of the ideology, said Doblin, whose group sponsored Craker’s license application.
DEA attorneys have defended the government’s marijuana, saying its Mississippi growing center provides adequate quality and quantity for legitimate researchers across the country.
Craker has said his case has been hurt by DEA concerns about the drug falling into the hands of students. He said he was confident security measures could be used at UMass to prevent that from happening.
Craker and Doblin said they were not surprised by the decision by the agency whose policy is to prevent members of the public from accessing marijuana.
“There is probably a philosophical difference — people who want to investigate this as a medicine have to go through those people who see this as a drug that could be abused in the market,” Craker said.
“All we are asking is that let’s give it a fair trial, independent fair trial. I’m not for the recreational use of this,” Craker said.
“With one foot out the door, the Bush administration has once again found time to undermine scientific freedom,” said Allen Hopper, litigation director of the American Civil Liberties Union Drug Law Reform Project.
On the Net:
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DEA’s ruling:
Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies:
Associated Press Writer Rodrique Ngowi contributed to this report from Boston.