Judge tells DEA to issue license to grow pot for research

February 12, 2007

Bob Roehr, Bay Area Reporter

An administrative law judge has ruled that the Drug Enforcement Administration should issue a license to a Massachusetts plant biologist to allow him to cultivate marijuana for medical research purposes. All such materials currently are produced at a facility at the University of Mississippi under contract with the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Judge Marry Ellen Bittner concluded that granting the license is allowed under international law; "there would be a minimal risk of diversion of marijuana;" the current supply of marijuana for research purposes is inadequate; and that issuing the license "would be in the public interest."

The exhaustive hearings were conducted over multiple days in August and December 2005. The 87-page decision, which offers an excellent primer on how the federal government regulates marijuana research, was released February 12.

The DEA has 20 days in which to either accept the decision and issue the license or appeal the decision to the director of the agency.

Lyle E. Craker, Ph.D., filed the lawsuit seeking to grow the marijuana. "I've worked with medicinal and aromatic plants for the past 20 years. I view medical cannabis as the same as any other botanical plant with potential health benefits," he said.

"We need to separate the anecdotal from the tested ... If we don't do this, society is going to lose, patients will continue to suffer," he added.

Barbara Roberts, Ph.D., is a former head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy and a current board member of the pro-marijuana group Americans for Safe Access. She called publication of the study demonstrating the effectiveness of cannabis in treating peripheral neuropathy, and Bittner's decision, a double blow to those who would prohibit such research.

"The government wants to have it both ways, they say the [Abrams] study doesn't have scientific rigor, so therefore there is no point in going forward. And, by the way, we are not allowing the science to go forward either," she said.

Roberts said this is "a wake up call for Congress to hold hearings" on the 1999 Institute of Medicine report that supported research into the medicinal potential of marijuana. While the organization hopes for such hearings, it has yet to identify a member of Congress who will lead that activity.



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