UMASS PROFESSOR SUES DEA OVER POT-GROWING APPLICATION
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
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 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
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.''