Scientists File Suit Claiming Feds Are Obstructing Marijuana Research

Amherst, Massachusetts: Federal agencies are blocking scientists from conducting research on the medicinal potential of cannabis, contend a pair of lawsuits filed this week in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

The suits – filed by Lyle Craker, director of the Medicinal Plant Program at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) President and NORML board member Rick Doblin, and NORML board member Valerie Corral, co-founder of the Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana in Santa Cruz – claim that federal agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), have refused to act on applications from scientists wishing to engage in research aimed at developing the cannabis plant into an FDA-approved prescription medicine.

“Instead of providing relief for critically ill Americans, our government refuses to allow the research that would free sick and dying” patients who use marijuana medically from arrest and prosecution, Corral said.

The DEA suit cites two instances in which petitioners argue that the agency’s failure to act constitutes an “unreasonable delay under the governing statutes and regulations.” In one instance, petitioners note that the DEA has failed for three years to respond to an application submitted by UMass’ Lyle Craker to establish a medicinal cannabis production facility at the university. The facility would produce cannabis for FDA-approved research, and serve as an alternative, independent source of marijuana for scientists who do not wish to perform clinical trials using NIDA-grown, low-grade marijuana.

“At present, NIDA has a monopoly on the supply of marijuana that can legally be used in research, a situation that serves to obstruct rather than facilitate research,” Doblin said. Independent sources are allowed to produce other Schedule I substances, including MDMA (ecstasy), for clinical research purposes.

In the second instance, the DEA has refused to act on a year-old application by MAPS and Chemic Laboratories in Massachusetts to allow researchers to import 10 grams of cannabis from Dutch authorities. Researchers are seeking the marijuana so that they can perform an evaluation of the types of emissions produced when cannabis is vaporized. Previous research on marijuana vaporization has found it to reduce harmful toxins in marijuana smoke.

The second lawsuit contends that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and NIDA have also failed to act in a timely manner regarding MAPS/Chemic Labs application.

Petitioners are requesting the Court to order the DEA and other federal agencies to grant prompt action on the pending applications.

The federal government “should welcome, rather than feel threatened by scientific research into the medical uses of marijuana,” former White House anti-drug deputy director Barbara Roberts said in a press release. “DEA licensing of the UMass Amherst facility, importation, and timely reviews by HHS of protocols [should be seen as] solutions, not problems.”

For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of the NORML Foundation, at (202) 483-5500 or MAPS President Rick Doblin at (617) 484-8711.