Federal Marijuana Monopoly Challenged

January 10, 2006

Alex Smith, Central Michigan Life

A  professor from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst attempted to obtain a license to grow marijuana for medical research and was turned down in early December by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The denial continues a 36-year trend allowing only the University of Mississippi, in a partnership with the National Institute on Drug Abuse, to grow and provide marijuana to the federal government.

“There’s only one government-approved source of marijuana for scientific research in this country, and that just isn’t adequate,” said Lyle Craker, director of the medicinal plant program at the University of Massachusetts in a Dec. 12 Washington Post article.

Mahmoud ElSohly, President of ElSohly Laboratories Inc. and director of the Marijuana Project at the University of Mississippi, said the dispute over the right to grow marijuana stems from an international treaty signed in the early 1970s that allows only a single source for controlled substances.

Craker says he should be allowed to grow marijuana because research on drugs such as heroin, LSD and ecstasy are conducted at more than one lab, so it should be the same for marijuana.

“There is no problem getting registrations for research on marijuana,” ElSohly said. “Actually there are many researchers in the USA that have such registrations. The problem Dr. Craker’s request is that he was asking for a manufacturer registration to grow and distribute marijuana to others.”

ElSohly said the University of Mississippi will remain the sole distributor of marijuana for years to come.

“The National Institute on Drug Abuse has been providing marijuana for research to investigators all over the country since the late sixties/early seventies,” he said.

In Michigan, Marijuana may soon be available for seriously ill patients.

A bill was introduced in the Michigan House of Representatives Dec. 7 that would allow doctors to prescribe small amounts of marijuana to patients. If the legislation were to pass, Michigan would become the 12th state to legalize medical marijuana.

James Hageman, vice provost for research and dean of the college of graduate studies, said he does not believe anyone has ever applied for a license to conduct studies with marijuana at CMU, but the university would support a professor if they were to gain approval.

“I do not know of any reason why it (CMU) would not, if it were approved by IRB Committee (Institutional Research Board) and was supported by a national funding agency, thus validating its authenticity as a scientific study.”

Hageman said he would not expect marijuana research to create controversy at CMU if it were ever conducted.

“I am not inclined to think (it would) but one never knows,” he said.

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