DEA-Ja Vu: Drug Enforcement Agency Overrules It's Own Administrative Law Judge — Says NIDA's Marijuana Monopoly Must Continue

Just days after November’s Presidential election I outlined various ways that President-Elect Obama could use the power of the executive branch to shape U.S. marijuana policy. One of my top suggestions was:

As president, Obama can also support scientific, clinical research into the medical properties of cannabis by encouraging the DEA to abide by the February 2007 ruling of the agency’s own administrative law judge, which found that it would be “in the public interest” to allow private entities to grow medical-grade cannabis for FDA-approved trials.

Thanks to a parting shot by outgoing DEA Deputy Administrator Michele Leonhart, the new administration may never get that opportunity.
On Wednesday, January 7th, Ms. Leonhart published a 118-page decision setting aside DEA Administrative Law Judge Mary Ellen Bittner’s 2007 ruling. The DEA’s decision constitutes a formal rejection of University of Massachusetts at Amherst Professor Lyle Craker’s petition, filed initially June 24, 2001, to cultivate research-grade marijuana for use by scientists in FDA-approved studies aimed at developing the drug as a legal, prescription medication.
To those not wholly familiar with this case and Judge Bittner’s ruling, here’s how I initially reported on it:

[Judge Bittner’s] 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.” (emphasis mine)
… Because Judge Bittner’s 2007 ruling is non-binding, the DEA has no deadline to act on it.
Under current policy, all federally approved research on marijuana must utilize cannabis supplied by and grown under contract with the US National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). By contrast, other controlled substances – including LSD, heroin, and MDMA (Ecstasy) – are available to researchers from multiple private manufacturers.
In 2004, the agency’s director, Nora Volkow, stated that it is “not NIDA’s mission to study the medical uses of marijuana.”

In her rejection of Judge Bittner’s ruling, Deputy Administrator Leonhart makes it clear once again that politics — not science — continue to govern America’s policies toward the research and use of medicinal cannabis.
For further information on this breaking story, please tune in to this evening’s edition of the NORML Daily Audio Stash.

0 thoughts

  1. She probably did it just to spite NORML for suggesting it. I’ll bet the DEA has this feed on their daily RSS 🙂 Anyway there’s lots of good (and bad) news shaping up right now about cannabis law reform, and as the grassroots movement you’ve created continues to gain national traction, especially in the national media (hopefully), more and more good news will come.

  2. Oh, and the diamond to take out of this is that the Obama administration has, at the very least, heard a loud bark from the community on this issue. While they may choose to ignore it in the visible spectrum of things, you can rest assured, they heard more than a whimper. Their fixing to hear another bark from notwithstanding any shenanigans. I’m still burned by, and frequently bring up, Nancy Pelosi’s idiotic comment about there not being enough support there yet. Well between The Hill, the Change Polls, the government needs only open it’s eyes to see the support.

  3. Typical. Well at least that’ll keep the prices high for another couple decades. I should be able to retire by then.

  4. I truly just do not understand the reason behind that decision. Honestly, what the hell was she trying to accomplish?

  5. You’ve got to love it when these hypocrites contradict themselves. Clearly they’re more interested in preserving and protecting their jobs, rather than the interests of the United States and its People. What a disgrace.

  6. Corporatism wins out over truth once again.
    Color me surprised.
    The fact that the Drug Warriors are willing to block any and all attempts to allow legitimate scientific inquiry into the properties of cannabis speaks volumes about their fear of the truth.
    If cannabis were truly the demon weed that they claim it is, one would think that they would welcome- and even encourage- honest research. If, on the other hand, they are fully aware that they have been lying to us all of these years…….


  8. Burrow Owl: Not only are they fully aware that they have been lying to us all these years, they know that we know that they have been lying. They simply don’t give a damn. I wouldn’t expect the new administration to do anything differently

  9. Why has the American science community been so silent and so useless in this campaign?
    Shame on them.

  10. Question to all whom post here.
    Do you really be leave posting on a web sight will do anything?do you really believe that they care what u or i think?they in the upper gov.don’t care any more for us they only look out for them self’s.time to just spank them. no vote no tax money.if that don’t work then we use our other options like a Con Con to get rid of them all. if that don’t work then well…..there is Tar and feather.there are more extreme measures. but i pray and hope that at some point they realize that the gov is there for us, not themselves!

  11. It’s truly sad that scientific advances are being stifled in the interest of corporate greed. What further proof do the American people need that our government is interested in financial profit and personal gain by elected officials than it is in bettering society in any way? To think that possible cures for disease are being BLOCKED by our government should make people angry. When will we say “enough?”

  12. I am sick of our community being treated like we are the scum of the earth. And for what some archaic way of thinking from people who want control of every facet in our lives. Well isn’t that a volation of our basic constitional rights. Let alone one of our main plights is to use marijuana for its medical benefits for people that need it. But they will damn us for that too. This is the time we need make our point loud and clear so we can overshadow the ignorance that has been cast over our society. Enough people have already stated this would be away to create the jobs much needed in this country.

  13. I predict Obama better watch his behind in 2012. There’s a level of rage building up here that could interfere with his dreams of a second term if he doesn’t do something to let off the steam from this pressure cooker.
    I’m already thinking — Green or Libertarian?
    If we have to go through another four years of being treated like garbage, then I will be more than happy to help Obama get Al Gored in 2012.

  14. Bob Says:
    “there is no “demon weed” and there never will be.
    The biggest demon has always been alcohol”
    I can attest to that. Many of my lifes troubles, near death experiences, arrests, injuries, car crashes, job losses and countless others are alcohol related.
    Cannibus, none of the above.
    Its not a war on drugs, never has been. Its a slow massacre.

  15. I’m with Patricia, I have no problem voting libertarian just to make a point. Obama you play your cards and we will play ours, I asure you next election our voice will be heard, as evidenced by and .gov polls. Roll the dice.

  16. When less than 50% of the nation votes… Government has failed. They are serving less than 50% of the nation, and oppressing the remaining portion. When that number falls below 25%, we come to take back our nation.
    Substance users founded this nation/world, supported this nation, built most of this technology, and turned most dreams into reality. Non-users dream, but have no view of reality. They are the ones chanting, love, peace, unity, share, give, happy-thoughts, bouncy-bouncy, and have a dream of a world without reality. Without drugs. Drugs/chemicals/nutrients are part of life. They fuel our brain, even the bad ones. Everything is bad without moderation. The government should impose minimums and maximums, to stop state abuse. It should not dictate what, and where, and who.
    Demand that all seized money, which was legitimately earned by someone, be given back to the nation. Give it directly to education and growth. Pay off debits. Stop allowing states and individual officers to “Mysteriously”, forget to report. No-one has $94,345.00 in a raid. They had $100,000.00, and the officers took the rest. Now the department has the remaining money.
    Why should we be paying for this war at all? Why is it a war? Users need to be left alone, abusers need help, criminals need to be reformed, and threats need to be subdued and contained. Define, users, abusers, criminals, and threats. Define them clearly, equally, without open-ended terms and undefendable catch-all words. Laws should be short, blunt, and without overlap and sub-notes, retaining “Intent”, to stop abuse of a law.
    One law… No non-prescription substances, other than food and water are allowed while working, around non-adults, in undesignated establishments, or in occupancies which you do not have permission to consume non-prescription substances. Let the states handle the rest. That covers schools, churches, bars, public parks, others houses, children, etc…
    Punishment… Minimum penalty of {Insert tolerable substance penalty here}, Maximum penalty of {Insert tolerable substance penalty here}.
    States MUST impose minimums, and may NEVER exceed maximums. (Each substance listed clearly, where needed, and all having a mandatory 4 year scientific evaluation/review for reform, based on changes.)
    Our nation and future should not be carved in stone! Dreams should not be an “Excuse” for actions, nor should they be out of reach or scope of reality. No place will EVER be drug-free, or crime-free, or hate-free. Don’t continue to make stupid laws that can’t be followed or defended, and you will have a functional growing nation again.
    No single person knows all laws. How can anyone honestly obey them, if not one person knows them all?

  17. CNBC will be premiering Marijuana Inc. Inside America’s Pot Industry on Thursday, January 22nd at 9p ET / 10p PT. The marijuana trade has long been one of the country’s leading black market industries. What factors continue to help this taboo business thrive and how is the government profiting as a result? Join Trish Regan as she explores this growing industry and how it has expanded into a major business with its own sophisticated network of growers, workers, and quasi-legal retail outlets, in the form of medical marijuana dispensaries.
    Web extras are coming soon to
    Sneak preview on Hulu:

  18. Patricia:
    NIDA is the only facility granted by the DEA to grow the marijuana for testing. When a scientist request to study it they get crappy weed sent to them and also it can take for ever to get it to them. NIDA and you can go to there website, only studies the bad effects of marijuana nothing more. So when a scientist does find something good it gets brushed under the table like it never happened. Also there was a case that went to court, a scientist requested to be allowed to grow was denied B/C of the DEA. Hell he had to sue just to get them to look at his application. there’s so much BS its amazing what these idiots get away with. maybe Obama will change this and ask for the publics support or he’ll be just like any other politician and do as hes told by his party so we get nothing done.

  19. oh by the way NIDA does state they only study the bad effects on there website and are the only facility allowed to grow. Funny how the DEA chose them to do it.

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