DEA Rejects University’s Bid To Grow Medical Cannabis For Clinical Research

Washington, DC: 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.”

In a prepared statement, Craker who along with NORML Board Members Rick Doblin and Valerie Corral-Leveroni filed suit in July demanding the DEA to respond to his research application said: “I am disappointed that the DEA seems to have decided that marijuana cannot be a medicine before the research has even taken place. We intend to appeal this decision and will keep trying to pursue vitally important research on [the] medical uses of marijuana.”

Craker has 30 days to appeal the DEA’s decision.

Presently, a handful of clinical trials investigating the therapeutic potential of inhaled cannabis are ongoing at the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research (CMCR) in California. Those studies all use NIDA-supplied marijuana.

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