Medical Marijuana Hearings Begin
August 22, 2005
Brendan Coyne, The New StandardA hearing into a challenge to federal laws prohibiting research and experimentation with marijuana opened today, with the American Civil Liberties Union charging that the Drug Enforcement Agency’s efforts to fight such privately-funded research posed an unnecessary obstruction that could prevent researchers from definitively finding out whether the plant has legitimate medical uses.
The proceedings cap a four-year battle by a University of Massachusetts professor seeking to grow marijuana for research into the prohibited plant’s medicinal uses.Through its Drug Law Reform Project, the ACLU is representing the plant researcher, Lyle E. Craker, in front of a Department of Justice administrative law judge who will make recommendations to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).
Craker, who heads the Medicinal Plant Program at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst is fighting a 2004 DEA final denial of his request for a permit to grow marijuana for research. He first sought approval in 2001, according to pre-hearing papers.
Currently all marijuana used for research must come from a Mississippi farm contracted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The DEA has said no more sources for research plants are needed.
Proponents of Craker’s proposal have said that supply from Mississippi has been inconsistent and the potency of the drug questionable.
In addition, DEA officials expressed concern that the professor’s growing operation would lack proper supervision to prevent misuse or theft of the plants.
Craker, the ACLU and medical marijuana research supporters claim the federal restrictions prevent independent research, stifling scientific and medical inquiry. They have also pointed out that by preventing study on the medicinal benefits of the plant, the DEA has "slammed the door" on efforts to gain approval of the drug from the Food and Drug Administration.