By Gersh Kuntzman
Jan. 18 – It’s like what I’ve always been saying: The main problem with the federal government is that its marijuana stinks.You may not have heard of Craker, but there is no greater authority on the healing power of black cohosh (which may sound like a brand of pot, but it’s just a vegetable that relieves symptoms of menopause–which, if he can get it to market, should get this guy a Nobel Prize).
But late last month, three years after he applied to grow pot, the DEA turned him down.Joseph Heller couldn’t have written a better rejection letter.
The DEA argued that “current research must utilize smoked marijuana, which ultimately cannot be the permitted delivery system … due to the deleterious effect … of smoked marijuana.”
That’s some catch, that Catch-22: The DEA can’t permit research because that research will obviously show that marijuana is harmful–even though it hasn’t done research to prove it yet. Clearly, the feds are worried that the truth will make us all free–free to smoke marijuana (and the feds are liars, too: there are several researchers experimenting with vaporizing marijuana rather than burning it. And as the good people at Duncan Hines can tell you, marijuana can be eaten, too. So I have no idea what the DEA is smoking when it says that smoking marijuana is the only way to get the medicinal benefits that the DEA says don’t even exist).
The rejection letter also said that Craker’s plans “would not be consistent with the public interest.” But if permitting more marijuana research is against “the public interest,” why are American voters constantly circumventing the government to allow more pot smoking? Red State Montana voted by a 62-38 margin last year to decriminalize medical marijuana. Pro-marijuana forces won 16 out of 19 other referenda on Election Day–and medical marijuana is legal in 11 states.
(Full disclosure: If it sounds as if I am some hemp-wearing marijuana crusader, you should know that I never smoked the stuff. True, I once got so wasted on a clove cigarette that I tried to make love to an angora sweater that I mistook for someone I’d met earlier in the evening. Clove cigarettes are not a federally controlled substance, so I am happily free to pursue further research. Fathers, lock up your daughters’ angora sweaters.)(Fuller disclosure: OK, the above is a lie. I was so high when I wrote it that I got paranoid that you’d find out that I had smoked pot. OK, I smoked it once. Nothing happened, so I never did it again. From this single experience I learned a valuable lesson: Marijuana does indeed destroy a person’s ability to focus on long-term goals—in this case, smoking more pot.)
Worse than the hypocrisy, Craker said, is the government ganja itself. It’s so bad you wouldn’t even buy it even if you were stuck at 4 a.m. in Salt Lake City. Of course, don’t believe me or Craker—we don’t smoke the stuff. Take it from an AIDS patient who thinks the government weed is reefer madness.
“It was the worst stuff I ever smoked in my life,” said Phillip Alden, who prefers the stronger, purer stuff that comes out of the cannabis buyers’ clubs in California. “It was rolled with cigarette company paper and it was filled with seeds and stems. And let me tell you, smoking a seed is nasty.”
Alden said the government pot actually gave him bronchitis because it was so harsh. He said it reduced his nausea a bit, but did nothing for his neuropathy, an intense nerve pain. “And marijuana is absolutely great for that,” he said.
“I’ve been smoking high-grade indiga [a variety of marijuana] from a club in San Francisco and my pain hasn’t gotten worse in nine years.”
Of course, a straight arrow like Craker is not very well served by the strange bedfellows who are financing his fight. Let me put it this way: when your principal funding is coming from the “Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies,” it’s hard to dispel the notion that “marijuana research” is just a euphemism for, “Hey man, pass the doobie.”
Craker, for example, doesn’t believe in recreational drug use. For MAPS President Rick Doblin, it’s practically an 11th Commandment. I suggested to Doblin that when the government gets a letter from a group called Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies, it tends to treat the letter differently than one from, say, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. But Doblin was undeterred.
“Where is it written that medical research on marijuana can only be done by people who are against recreational use?” Doblin asked me. (I suggested that it’s probably in some DEA handbook, actually.)
“The criteria should be rigorous research. I mean, should I get out of the business of promoting medical marijuana simply because I believe in recreational use of it, too?”
I put that question to the DEA, but the agency could not comment because of Craker’s pending appeal, according to the spokesman, Rusty Payne (hmm, I bet that a little marijuana would be good for that).
A Newsweek article about DEA’s rejection of Prof. Craker’s UMass Amherst application does a good job of explaining the issues but takes some pot shots at MAPS.