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December 17, 2004

Reefer Research Roadblock

The US government wants to limit reasonable research of medical marijuana. Talk about a dilemma: The US government wants us to "just say no" to marijuana. Many scientists contend that the herb, when used by people suffering from a variety of illnesses, can offer medicinal benefit -- and there is a growing body of science and anecdotal evidence that lends credence to the contention. Does the government, in the interest of fairness and compassion, agree to allow reasonable, complete research of the issue?

Apparently not.

From the National Organization for the Repeal of Marijuana Laws:

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on Friday
rejected an application to establish a private medicinal cannabis
production facility at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

The application -­ filed in 2001 by Lyle Craker, director of the UMass-Amherst Medicinal Plant Program -­ requested permission to cultivate cannabis for FDA-approved research.

Presently, all federally approved research on marijuana must utilize cannabis grown and supplied by the US National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The UMass-Amherst proposal
sought to provide researchers with an alternative, independent source of cannabis for FDA-approved clinical trials. In recent years, several US researchers have complained that the low quality of NIDA-grown marijuana is insufficient to use in clinical trials evaluating cannabis' therapeutic potential.

In its rejection of Craker's application, the DEA said that the establishment of such a production facility "would not be consistent with public interest," adding that it was "reasonable" to limit the drug's supply because marijuana is "the most heavily abused of all Schedule I controlled substances," and that NIDA's crop was of "sufficient quality"
to meet researchers' present needs.

The agency further noted that it would discourage research investigating the medical utility of smoked cannabis, stating, "Smoked marijuana ... ultimately cannot be the permitted delivery system for any potential marijuana medication due to the deleterious effects and the difficulty monitoring the efficaciousness of smoked marijuana ."
Um, how do we know this without thoroughly researching the matter? And how do we prove that NIDA-supplied pot is all but useless without researching alternative forms of the medication?

Jessica Azulay of the independent, progressive news site The NewStandard reports that the DEA's ruling effectively renders federal approval of medical marijuana impossible.

Proponents of medical marijuana decried the decision. They said that by refusing to license another, more reliable and potent marijuana source, the DEA is putting up an insurmountable roadblock against anyone attempting to go through the FDA approval process. The Marijuana Policy Project, which advocates reform to the nation's marijuana laws, said that since the Mississippi marijuana cannot be used for prescription sale, "FDA approval of marijuana [is] effectively impossible unless an alternative source is made available, since testing would need to be done on the same product that is [to be] sold to patients." The group also accused the federal government of stonewalling studies into other delivery technologies such as vaporizers. ...

"In the Supreme Court two weeks ago, Justice Breyer told two California patients that they should go to the FDA to get marijuana approved as a medicine, but now the DEA has slammed the door on that process," said Ron Kampia, director of the Marijuana Policy Project, referring to a recent case heard by the justice on whether the federal government can prosecute people who are using marijuana in accordance to their own state's law.

"The DEA has proven that the system is rigged to make sure that marijuana will never be approved by the FDA, because the DEA can always block the research that the FDA needs," continued Kampia in a press statement. "The DEA's decision means the only way to protect patients from arrest is through state and federal legislation, and this adds new urgency to our efforts in both Congress and the states. We expect legislators to move quickly once they understand that, for the foreseeable future, legislative action is the only way to keep cancer and AIDS patients out of jail."

And pols wonder why so many people distrust their government...

Another interesting marijuana-related piece in the news:

Tim Meehan, Director of Communications for Canada NORML, writes a letter to the editor of the Ottawa Sun that likens modern-day pot growers to Prohibition-era makers of bathtub gin:

RE "7 Convicted in pot bust," (Dec. 4): Your report about some people being sentenced to jail for growing plants in the old Molson brewery neglected to mention if any of the principals jailed had previous criminal records for growing the modern version of bathtub gin.
BR>These types of sentences are the exception, not the norm, and thank goodness for that. Judges still seem to have some degree of independence. Of course if Anne McLellan, the Conservative Party and the police unions had their way, they would turn our justice system into kangaroo courts.
BR>Legalizing it would be too easy, they say, and would send the "wrong message." I have a tip for them: if they want to send a message, call Western Union. Let's quit the social engineering and stop criminalizing popular and harmless conduct.

The editor can't help but add a response: "Wishful thinking." Amusing.

Posted by Natalie Davis at December 17, 2004 02:33 AM

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