Congress to DEA: Reconsider Monopoly on Medical Marijuana Research

February 06, 2009
Washington, DC -- Sixteen Members of Congress issued a letter yesterday to newly-seated Attorney General Eric Holder urging the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to act "swiftly to amend or withdraw" an order that significantly curtails medical marijuana research in the United States. For more than forty years, the federal government has held a unique monopoly on the cultivation of marijuana for medical research, significantly impeding studies on the therapeutic qualities of medical marijuana and the ability to bring it to market. In February of 2007, DEA Administrative Law Judge Mary Ellen Bittner ruled to end that monopoly by claiming that expanded medical marijuana research was "in the public interest."

The Congressional letter sent to Attorney General Holder was authored by John Olver (D-MA) and states in part:
Since 2001, Prof. Lyle Craker, an experienced botanist of medicinal plants and soils, has been struggling to obtain a DEA license for a privately-funded facility located at the University of Massachusetts to grow cannabis (marijuana) exclusively for FDA-approved research protocols designed to evaluate its potential medical value. Forty-five members of the House of Representatives and Senators Edward Kennedy and John Kerry, as well as a broad range of scientific, medical and public health organizations including the Lymphoma Foundation of America, the National Association for Public Health Policy, and the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation have all written to DEA in support of Professor Craker's efforts.

Since 1968, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has contracted exclusively with the University of Mississippi to cultivate marijuana for medical research. Not only is this exclusive arrangement unlike that for any other Controlled Substance regulated by the federal government, but it is also unlike other countries that comply with the United Nations Single Convention Treaty on Narcotics. In her 87-page Opinion and Recommended Ruling, Administrative Law Judge Bittner concluded that the quality and quantity of marijuana supplied by NIDA was inadequate for the level of research that cannabis deserves.

"Given President Obama's commitment to end federal enforcement in medical marijuana states, it stands to reason that he would be in favor of expanded research into this important medication," said Caren Woodson, Director of Government Affairs with Americans for Safe Access. "His Department of Justice has the opportunity to place science above politics and to facilitate unfettered research into medical marijuana." The DEA took nearly two years to respond to Judge Bittner's ruling and with less than one week before a change in Administration, acting-DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart rejected the ruling and denied Professor Craker's application. The ACLU, which represents Professor Craker in this matter, is requesting reconsideration and an opportunity to respond to new evidence used by the DEA in its rejection.

Take Action by sending a letter to the President and your Senators at www.ScienceOverPolitics.org

Further information:
Yesterday's letter from 16 Members of Congress to Attorney General Eric Holder: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/Olver_to_Holder_Letter.pdf
February 2007 DEA Administrative Law Judge ruling: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/Craker_Ruling.pdf
DEA rejection of Professor Craker's application: http://www.aclu.org/drugpolicy/medmarijuana/38298lgl20090112.html
ACLU Motion to Reconsider: http://www.aclu.org/drugpolicy/medmarijuana/38648lgl20090130.html

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