DEA Rejects University of Mass. Request To Grow Medical Marijuana

The US Drug Enforcement Administration has rejected the bid of a UMass Amherst researcher who wants to create the second laboratory in the nation authorized to grow marijuana for medical research.

The ruling released today came nearly two years after a federal administrative law judge recommended that Lyle Craker, a horticultural professor who specializes in medicinal plants, be allowed to grow marijuana for medical research. The DEA decision, which is a final rule not subject to public comment, called the current supply of marijuana for research “adequate and uninterrupted,” and said that a second laboratory would not be in the public interest.

Since 1968, a federally approved laboratory at the University of Mississippi’s School of Pharmacy has grown nearly a hundred varieties of marijuana plants. Access to the plants has been limited to researchers who gain federal permits, and plants from the lab’s farm have been used for clinical studies across the country to test marijuana for treating glaucoma, pain, nausea, and other illnesses.

But some researchers complain that access to the laboratory’s supply is thwarted by a contract the lab holds with the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which must approve permits issued by the Food and Drug Administration or the DEA in a process that can take months to complete. Other drugs listed by the DEA as “Schedule 1,” such as heroin and ecstasy, do not require this additional approval for researchers to access them.

Rick Doblin, president of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a Belmont-based drug research group that wants to fund Craker’s marijuana cultivation and sponsored the lawsuit that spurred the administrative law judge’s recommendation in 2007, calls the Mississippi lab a “monopoly.”

Doblin said that his group will now either file another lawsuit or appeal to the incoming Obama administration to reverse the decision. “We’re not giving up,” he said.

Craker, who first applied for the DEA permit in 2001, said he was disappointed that the agency appears to want to limit medicinal marijuana research. “We’ve seen a big upsurge in the use of medicinal plants to treat illnesses,” he said.

DEA spokesman Garrison Courtney said the agency had no additional comment on the decision other than what was written in the ruling.

– Article from The Boston Globe.