A bipartisan group of sixteen members of Congress sent a letter Thursday to Attorney General Eric Holder urging him to allow the University of Massachusetts to grow its own marijuana for medical research.
Marijuana used for research, and that distributed to patients in a closed federal program, is currently grown exclusively by the University of Mississippi. Patients who have smoked it and researchers who have tried to work with it say it's total swag (very low quality).
For eight years, UMASS Professor Lyle Craker has been fighting with the Drug Enforcement Administration to get a license to cultivate his own medical pot.
In February 2007 Craker looked to have won, when DEA Administrative Law Judge Mary Ellen Bittner ruled that his request was "in the public interest" and called on the agency to license him.
In a last-minute Bush Administration order, however, the DEA reversed Bittner's ruling and refused Craker the license, citing evidence that hadn't been presented during the initial hearing.
The letter from members of Congress encourages Holder "swiftly to amend or withdraw" the decision and allow Craker to rebut the new DEA evidence.
Forty-five members of the House, along with Massachusetts Sens. Ted Kennedy and John Kerry, as well as the Lymphoma Foundation of America, the National Association for Public Health Policy, and the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation have all written the DEA in support of Craker's efforts.
Craker's advocates say that granting the license to do research would place science ahead of politics.
Meanwhile, the Washington Times reported Thursday that raids on medical marijuana clubs in California ordered by Bush administration holdovers have continued, despite President Obama's campaign pledge to end them.
"The president believes that federal resources should not be used to circumvent state laws, and as he continues to appoint senior leadership to fill out the ranks of the federal government, he expects them to review their policies with that in mind," White House spokesman Nick Shapiro told the Times.
During the campaign, Obama said that the "basic concept of using medical marijuana for the same purposes and with the same controls as other drugs prescribed by doctors, I think that's entirely appropriate."
Medical marijuana research advocates are optimistic. "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, which lobbies on behalf of medical marijuana.
By Ryan Grim
February 6, 2009 12:44 PM