Scientists Sue Federal Government for Blocking Medical Marijuana Research

Reported at Common Dreams with a related version on AP wire.

WASHINGTON – July 20 – In a pair of federal lawsuits to be filed on Wednesday, July 21, researchers charge the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, and National Institute on Drug Abuse with obstructing medical marijuana research in violation of federal law. They are joined in the legal action by patient Valerie Corral, co-founder of the Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM) in Santa Cruz, California, who uses marijuana to control epileptic seizures. …

On June 25, 2001, Lyle Craker, Ph.D., director of the Medicinal Plant Program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, filed an application with the DEA for approval to establish a facility that would produce marijuana for U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved research. Currently, all marijuana for research in the U.S. must come from a crop grown on a NIDA-contracted farm in Mississippi. NIDA’s product has been only inconsistently available to researchers and is infamous for its low quality.

Three years later, the DEA has yet to act on the UMass application, even though it has the backing of U.S. Senators John Kerry and Edward Kennedy, who sent a letter of support to the DEA in October 20, 2003. Craker and the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), which would fund the UMass facility, charge that the DEA’s refusal to act on the proposal has caused an unreasonable delay in violation of the federal Administrative Procedures Act, making it impossible for MAPS to conduct studies that could lead to FDA’s approval of marijuana as a prescription drug.

“There is an urgent need for an alternative supply of marijuana for medical research,” Craker said. “Independent sources are allowed to produce other Schedule I drugs — including MDMA (ecstasy) — for research, but NIDA maintains a monopoly on research marijuana. Many researchers believe that NIDA’s monopoly is an obstacle to getting needed studies done on a timely basis.” The suit filed by Craker. MAPS, and Valerie Corral against the DEA notes that NIDA has refused to supply marijuana for at least two FDA-approved research protocols submitted by respected scientists, one for treatment of AIDS wasting syndrome and another for treatment of migraine headaches.

Steve Fox points out the gaping hole in the government’s position that there is not enough scientific evidence supporting medical use.

“This litigation is necessary because of the federal government’s obstructionism regarding medical marijuana research,” said Steve Fox, director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C. “The government regularly claims that if marijuana were really medicine, it would already have been approved by the FDA, and that more research is needed, yet they have not only failed to support medical research, they’ve actively obstructed it.”

The feds are starting to get it from all sides now. Nice to see. Hope the courts step up to the plate.

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