Researcher Sues DEA for Blocking Medical Research

Originally appearing here. Professor Lyle Craker of the U of Massachusetts-Amherst filed the opening brief of his lawsuit against the federal DEA Dec. 15, 2011 with the First Circuit US Court of Appeals. The suit aims to overturn an earlier decision by the DEA that rejected Craker’s application to obtain a license to grow marijuana for privately funded FDA-approved research. His lawsuit hopes to open the door to research that may substantiate many veterans’ claims of therapeutic benefits from marijuana to treat PTSD. Craker aims to refute the conclusions the DEA reached in rejecting his application. He hopes to show that marijuana is within the definition of a medicine according to the Controlled Substance Act, that having an additional cultivator of marijuana is consistent with the legal regulatory framework provided for by the Single Convention Treaty on Narcotics, and that there is a lack of adequate competitive conditions with the federal marijuana supply. According to the Federal Office of Veterans’ Affairs, an estimated 6-11% of veterans returning from Afghanistan and upwards of 12-20% from Iraq suffer from PTSD. While there are many conventional treatments for the condition, few are effective. Growing anecdotal evidence of cannabis’ value to treat PTSD has come from states with medical use programs. With interest in the plant’s potential to treat PTSD mounting, states are advocating for further medical use reforms. A bill introduced in Vermont by Rep. Jim Masland adds PTSD to the list of qualifying conditions that can be treated with medical marijuana. If it becomes law, Vermont will join New Mexico and Delaware as the only states that explicitly allow for treating PTSD with cannabis. Masland introduced the bill to protect vets who cannot find any other relief. While many groups are calling for further medical marijuana reforms, there is very little scientific research on the subject so far because the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) monopoly on the research supply hampers researchers with a redundant review process that exists only for cannabis, not for any other drug. Dr. Sue Sisley’s study at the U of Arizona to examine marijuana’s potential to treat veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq who suffer from PTSD was rejected by NIDA, despite passing the FDA approval process. As such, she was unable to obtain authorized marijuana for her study. Should Craker prevail against DEA, additional research into marijuana’s therapeutic potential will accelerate. With an independent source of marijuana available outside of NIDA’s review process, scholars would be able to explore new research opportunities in a stable, non-politicized scientific environment. Professor Craker is supported in his efforts by the ACLU, MAPS and the Washington, DC-based law firm Covington & Burling, LLP. West Coast Leaf reports on how Prof. Lyle Craker’s efforts to start a medical marijuana production facility under license to MAPS are still being blocked by the DEA. While veterans’ groups, researchers, and state legislators alike already recognize the effectiveness of marijuana for symptoms of PTSD, the DEA continues to stand in the way.