The Austin Chronicle

Where the Dope Don't Grow

Weed watch

By Jordan Smith, December 17, 2004, News

On Dec. 10, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration denied a 3-year-old application filed by a University of Massachusetts at Amherst researcher seeking approval to grow marijuana for use in federally approved research. Lyle Craker, director of the university's Medicinal Plant Program, filed an application with the DEA in June 2001, in order to pursue medi-pot research that could, conceivably, lead the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve use of the drug for medicinal purposes. Currently, marijuana is listed as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act – meaning it has no currently accepted medical uses.

The FDA has received petitions seeking to reschedule the drug, all of which, to date, have been unsuccessful – in part, the feds have opined, because more research is needed before any determination about marijuana's medicinal benefits can be made. However, the necessary research can't be done without legal, consistent access to marijuana plants – access to which is controlled by the DEA. Currently, researchers must rely on marijuana grown on the National Institute on Drug Abuse-contracted farm in Mississippi, which some researchers argue is only intermittently available, reports the Marijuana Policy Project. In short, researchers seeking access to marijuana for research find themselves in an endless bureaucratic loop.

Still, Craker's proposed cultivation-for-research plan is not "consistent with the public interest," wrote DEA Deputy Assistant Administrator William Walker. Further, the FDA had not yet received a "new drug application" stating Craker's intention to develop a "prescription drug containing marijuana or a constituent of marijuana," Walker wrote.

And since that process "can take many years," the "DEA should not register another marijuana manufacturer ... on such a speculative basis," Walker opined. The feds have the duty to regulate marijuana manufacturing and have done so for 36 years by confining fed-grown pot to the Mississippi farm, which has produced an "adequate and uninterrupted supply" of the herb. While U-Mass "is free to compete" with Mississippi for the NIDA dope-growing contract, the DEA has concluded that "there is no basis ... to add an additional producer." Craker plans to seek an appeal hearing, in accordance with DEA rules.

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