By Alfa · Jul 26, 2004 ·
  1. Alfa

    A University of Massachusetts plant and soil sciences professor is suing the
    U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration for
    delay'' in approving or denying his application to grow high-potency
    marijuana on campus for government-approved medicinal research.
    Lyle Craker, director of the medicinal plant program at UMass, is one of
    three plaintiffs in the suit, which was mailed Wednesday to the Circuit
    Court of
    Appeals for the District of Columbia, the appellate court that typically
    reviews challenges to federal agencies.

    Craker's application for permission to grow an initial 25 pounds of
    high-potency marijuana in a secure location on the Amherst campus was
    first filed with the DEA in June 2001. Since then, despite letters of
    support from U.S. Sens. Edward Kennedy and John Kerry and another
    letter to the DEA from five Massachusetts congressmen, including John
    Olver, the DEA has taken no action on the application, according to
    the lawsuit.

    The marijuana would be supplied to government-approved researchers
    working on therapies for treating symptoms of AIDS, glaucoma and
    multiple sclerosis and in alleviating pain and other side effects of
    chemotherapy. If the DEA approved the application, UMass would be the
    only legal grower of marijuana for research purposes besides the
    University of Mississippi, which has supplied the National Institute
    on Drug Abuse with marijuana for 30 years. The institute is on the
    Mississippi campus.

    Chancellor John Lombardi has said the project has his full support
    Craker is joined in the suit by the Multidisciplinary Association for
    Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) and Valerie Corral a governmentally
    approved medicinal marijuana user from California.

    MAPS is a Florida-based nonprofit research and educational
    organization that seeks to develop marijuana as a prescription
    medication approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It has
    received approval to research medicinal uses of marijuana, including
    in vapor form.

    The suit asks the DEA to promptly approve or deny both Craker's
    application and another request by MAPS to import a small amount of
    high grade marijuana from the Dutch Office of Medicinal Cannabis, the
    Dutch government agency that supplies medical marijuana to pharmacies
    in the Netherlands to use in testing of a marijuana vaporizer.

    Boston attorney Michael D. Cutler, who is representing Craker, MAPS
    and Corral, said Tuesday it appears as if the DEA is playing a game of
    three-card monty with the plaintiffs. As detailed in the suit, the DEA
    claims to have lost Craker's first application for several months
    before finding it. Then, the agency placed a notice in the Federal
    Register asking whether anyone had objections to the granting of the
    application and received only one - from the director of research at
    the University of Mississippi-based growers. For months it has taken
    no action at all.

    ''This is not two graduate students on the phone asking for
    permission,'' Cutler said.

    MAPS already has obtained permission to conduct research with
    substances including Ecstasy.

    ''Only when you're doing marijuana testing does the National Institute
    on Drug Abuse have this monopoly. You can't get it from any other
    place,'' Cutler said. In their Oct. 20, 2003, letter addressed to DEA
    administrator Karen Tandy, Kennedy and Kerry wrote, ''We believe that
    the National Institute on Drug Abuse facility at the University of
    Mississippi has an unjustifiable monopoly on the reduction of
    marijuana for legitimate medical and research purposes in the United
    States.'' According to Kennedy and Kerry, the current lack of
    competition ''may well result in the production of lower-quality
    research-grade marijuana, which in turn jeopardizes important research
    into the therapeutic effects of marijuana for patients undergoing
    chemotherapy or suffering from AIDS, glaucoma, or other diseases.''
    Massachusetts Congressmen John Olver, Barney Frank, James McGovern,
    William Delahunt and Michael Capuano, who support Craker's proposal,
    wrote to then DEA Administrator Asa Hutchinson in June 2002, urging
    the agency to license privately funded sources of marijuana.

    But in his July 1, 2002, response addressed to Frank, Hutchinson
    argued against expanding the number of marijuana producers, saying,
    ''For more than 30 years, the University of Mississippi has produced
    an adequate supply to meet the entire United States demand for
    research-grade marijuana. There is no indication that this supply is
    currently inadequate or will become inadequate in the future.''

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