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DEA Administrative Law Judge Rules Against US Government's Monopoly On Pot Production

Monday, 12 February 2007

Washington, DC:  Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Administrative Law Judge Mary Ellen Bittner ruled Monday that the private production of cannabis for research purposes is "in the public interest."  Her ruling affirms that the DEA in 2004 improperly rejected an application from the University of Massachusetts (UMass) at Amherst to manufacture cannabis for FDA-approved research.
 
Bittner opined: "I conclude that granting Respondent's application would not be inconsistent with the Single Convention, that there would be minimal risk of diversion of marijuana resulting from Respondent's registration, that there is currently an inadequate supply of marijuana available for research purposes, that competition in the provision of marijuana for such purposes is inadequate, and that Respondent has complied with applicable laws and has never been convicted of any violation of any law pertaining to controlled substances.  I therefore find that Respondent's registration to cultivate marijuana would be in the public interest."
 
Currently, all federally approved research on marijuana must utilize cannabis supplied by and grown under contract with the US  National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The UMass-Amherst proposal sought to provide clinical investigators with an alternative, independent source of cannabis for FDA-approved clinical trials.
 
NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre praised the decision. "Judge Bittner's ruling is an important first step toward breaking the US government's long-standing monopoly regarding the cultivation of research-grade cannabis.  Clinical investigators and drug development researchers who no longer wish to conduct trials using NIDA's inferior strains of cannabis may one day have access to other, legal alternatives."
 
In recent years, several US researchers have criticized NIDA's unwillingness to provide cannabis for clinical protocols seeking to investigate the drug's medical uses. In 2004, the agency's director Nora Volkow stated that it is "not NIDA's mission to study the medical uses of marijuana."
 
NORML Board Member Rick Doblin --­ Executive Director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) ­-- one of the respondents in the case, said: "This is a major step to getting us to do the scientific research that the government has been blocking for the past 30 years.  If the government says no [to the judge's ruling,] the hypocrisy of their approach will help fuel efforts for [additional] state medical marijuana reforms." 
 
The DEA has 20 days to challenge Judge Bittner's decision.  The decision then goes before DEA Deputy Administrator Michele Leonhart, who can still elect to set aside the ruling.  A spokesman for the agency told the Associated Press that they are reviewing the opinion.
 
For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director, or Paul Armentano, Senior Policy Analyst, at (202) 483-5500. Text of Judge Bittner's ruling is available online at: http://www.maps.org/ALJfindings.PDF.  Additional information is available on today's edition of NORML's daily AudioStash at:
http://www.normlaudiostash.com.