In Parting Shot, Bush's DEA Blocks FDA Research Route for Medical Marijuana

(Originally posted on Daily Kos.)

In a devious 11th-hour move to undermine scientific freedom, the Bush administration dealt a serious blow this week to the effort to bring medical marijuana before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Way back in 2001, University of Massachusetts-Amherst Professor Lyle Craker applied to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for a Schedule I license to cultivate research-grade marijuana for use by scientists in FDA-approved studies aimed at developing the drug as a legal, prescription medication. After years of DEA stonewalling, in February 2007 the DEA's Administrative Law Judge issued a decisive — but nonbinding — recommendation that Professor Craker's application be approved. Now, after taking its sweet time for 23 months, the DEA finally got around to issuing a formal rejection of the Judge's recommendation, less than two weeks before Bush leaves office.

Like abstinence-only education and research into global warming, DEA's decision to obstruct FDA-approved research is an inappropriate insertion of political ideology into science. Why is the federal government going to such lengths to stop Lyle Craker? Clearly, it realizes that if the FDA has the opportunity to evaluate medical marijuana based on science, not politics,it would likely approve it for medical use.

Although the DEA has licensed multiple privately-funded manufacturers of all other Schedule I drugs, for four decades the DEA has permitted only one person to produce marijuana for research purposes, under contract with the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). With its monopoly power, NIDA has systematically blocked FDA-approved research seeking to determine whether marijuana meets the FDA's standards for medical safety and efficacy. Even for researchers whose protocols it approves, NIDA provides inferior, low-potency marijuana with limited cannabinoid profiles. To put the nail in the coffin, NIDA cannot guarantee that the same material will be available for prescription use should FDA determine that safety and efficacy has been proven. This makes any drug development effort using NIDA marijuana a futile exercise.

As a result, pharmaceutical companies interested in making marijuana a prescription medicine are impeded by NIDA's monopoly — not a single private company is investing in marijuana research.

The DEA and NIDA have successfully created a catch-22 for patients, doctors and scientists by denying that marijuana is a medicine because it is not approved by the FDA, while simultaneously obstructing the very research that would be required for FDA to approve marijuana as a medicine.

As a result of the federal government's longtime obstruction of marijuana drug development research, 13 states have used political mechanisms to protect patients who use marijuana for legitimate medical purposes. Ultimately, the DEA is not only destroying its remaining shreds of credibility, but also shooting itself in the foot — thanks to this recent decision, more states will be compelled to approve medical marijuana since, nationally, three-quarters of voters support it.

Sick people who depend on medical marijuana are hoping that Obama's DEA will bring an end to this disgraceful farce. In addition, 45 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, Massachusetts Senators John Kerry and Edward Kennedy, and a broad range of scientific, medical and public health organizations have written in support of Professor Craker, including the Lymphoma Foundation of America, the National Association for Public Health Policy, the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation, as well as several state medical and nurses' associations.

Fortunately, the incoming administration has signaled that it will take a different approach than the outgoing one. Last spring, the Obama campaign told the LA Times:

"Obama supports the rights of states and local governments to make this choice — though he believes medical marijuana should be subject to [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] regulation like other drugs."

Well, here's his chance. Medical marijuana can only "be subject to regulation like other drugs" if legitimate, privately-funded FDA-approved research is allowed to proceed as it can for any other drug. Will Obama have the courage and common sense to let science resolve the controversy over medical marijuana? We'll find out soon.

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Carl Olsen

How can marijuana be in schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act which says it has "no accepted medical use in treatment in the United States" when 13 states in the United States have accepted it's medical use by state law? Has anyone ever asked this question and gotten a response from the DEA or a U.S. District Court on it? If not, why not? It's not obvious to me.

Carl Olsen
Iowans for Medical Marijuana
Post Office Box 4091
Des Moines, Iowa 50333


I am against the failed policy of marijuana prohibition but keep in mind that there is no Constitutional Right for the people to smoke or use medical marijuana but there most certainly is a Constitutional Right for the people to keep and bear arms!
Defend the Second Amendment!

Robert Petricci

Marijuana is medicine and has been since recorded history began. The government is clearly working for corporations that will lose billions of dollars when marijuana again is allowed to treat the many illnesses it alleviates. It is outrageous for the the government to inflict suffering and deny an adult the right to choose to use marijuana as a medicine when the science proves it is so effective.


In considering the reasons why the DEA denied Mr. Craker's application, surely the most likely and insidious one is that they are afraid his findings will undermine 30 years of a failed drug policy in America.

Liberal Idealist

The CONSTITUTION: See the ninth amendment.

William J. Robards

Unfortunately, medical marijuna is another victim of the chemical/petroleum industry. Their true intent is to keep hemp, not marijuana, off the market. Hemp can be used to make everything now being made from oil. They couldn't care less about people in pain.


Marijuana is a plant and it is in no wise a poison (therefore surely it is everywhere legal. In addition I have heard that resin, in this case hashish, is everywhere legal by global statute). In truth marijuana has I believe no known toxic effects and any such effects incurred in the use of marijuana are usually attributed to contaminants. Furthermore the police and the feds go crazy hunting the innocent and enlightening drugs incl. marijuana, and people lose jobs to drug screening, all for what? For the perpetration of fascism by the genocidal, WMD-wielding, Iraqi-slaying Republican party of the United States! Meanwhile marijuana can cure depression, induce feelings of happiness, aid in creativity, and increase achievement levels as well as feelings of success. For all these reasons marijuana is legalized in the Declaration of Independence as 'the pursuit of happiness.' Now note the Bush block outlined in the article: something is noticeably lacking; yet, at the same time, the mechanism for bringing it is denied. In this same way the poor are denied many things ... legalize, legalize drugs, legalize happiness ...


t - My personal opinion is that there are both primary and secondary health risks. First, any smoke you take into your lungs puts you at higher risk for lung disease. Second, anything you take that interferes with judgment puts you at higher risk for the effects of poor judgment - auto accidents and such.

This puts smoking marijuana in the same general class as tobacco and alcohol. If you are an adult, you should be able to balance the benefits and risks and act accordingly.

People should not have to suffer the effects of second hand smoke or of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence.

Good luck trying to get the courts to believe that being stoned is pursuit of happiness.


From 1978-1991 the federal government prescribed patients with medical marijuana to approved applicants and they STILL TO THIS DAY CONTINUE to dispense medical marijuana to those patients that were in the government program... They have not transitioned them over to any other form of alternative drug to replace the medical marijuana they prescribed. If the federal government is still dispensing medical marijuana to people then they must recognize that it does have medical benefits... If not they would have prescribed alternative legal pharmacutecal drugs to them to replace the medical marijuana, right???

Wouldn't the government be in violation of their own law AND BE SUPPLYING doctors with marijuana? Isn't that hypocritical? They are contributing to the corruption of doctors disregarding federal law and/or personal professional advice of a doctor?

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