DEA Judge Recommends End to Government Obstruction of Medical Marijuana Research

MAPS, the ACLU, and a broad array of medical and public policy groups nationwide are commending the recent official recommendation by Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Administrative Law Judge Mary Ellen Bittner that University of Massachusetts- Amherst Professor Lyle Craker be permitted to grow research-grade marijuana for use in privately-funded government-approved studies that aim to develop the marijuana plant into a legal, prescription medicine.

Judge Bittner ruled that it is in the public interest to end the federal government’s monopoly, which it has maintained for over six decades, on the supply of marijuana that can be used in FDA-approved research.

The ruling by DEA Administrative Law Judge Mary Ellen Bittner, who is appointed by the U.S. Department of Justice, marks a unique window of opportunity in the six year struggle by MAPS and Prof. Craker to gain a Schedule I DEA license to grow research-grade marijuana for use by other scientists in privately funded, DEA- and FDA-approved studies.

The court’s ruling is only a recommendation to DEA Administrator Karen Tandy, however, not a binding ruling; thus, Tandy retains final decision- making authority. In response, scientists, researchers, doctors and medical marijuana patients nationwide are joining MAPS and the ACLU by encouraging Tandy to comply with the court’s finding and to halt federal obstruction of medical marijuana research.

Thirty-eight Congressional Representatives, Massachusetts Senators Kerry and Kennedy, and a broad range of scientific, medical, religious and public policy organizations have already joined Prof. Craker in challenging the federal policy of blocking appropriate administrative channels and obstructing research that could evaluate whether smoked and/or vaporized marijuana meets FDA guidelines for approval as a prescription medicine.

If the DEA grants Prof. Craker a Schedule I license, his proposed research-grade medical marijuana production facility will be funded by MAPS, a non-profit research organization that plans to design, fund, and obtain government approval for the clinical trials necessary to bring marijuana to market as a fully legal, prescription medication. MAPS has had two FDA- approved marijuana studies blocked by NIDA, and would require a reliable, high-quality supply of research material to justify the time and expense to sponsor FDA-approved clinical research evaluating the risks and benefits of marijuana as a potential FDA-approved medicine.

The ACLU and the Washington D.C. law firm Jenner & Block, LLP are co- counsel for the case and are assisted by Steptoe & Johnson, LLP. For extensive background information on Professor Craker’s proposed medical marijuana production facility: http://maps.org/mmj/DEAlawsuit.html.

Founded in 1986, MAPS is a membership-based non-profit research and educational organization that assists scientists to design, fund, obtain approval for and report on studies into the risks and benefits of MDMA, psychedelic drugs and marijuana.

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