People Working to Legalize Medical Marijuana

November 29, 2005
Lyle E. Craker, Ph.D.
Lyle Craker is a professor of Plant and Soil Sciences at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Since 1967 when Professor Craker earned his Doctorate degree in Agronomy & Plant Genetics from the University of Minnesota, his research has centered on crop physiology, principally on the physiology of medicinal and aromatic plants.

Professor Craker has written more than 100 articles on a range of topics from the effects of heavy metals in soil on plant growth to the development of essential oils in everyday herbs like rosemary and sage. In addition to his teaching and research responsibilities at the University, Professor Craker is currently editor of The Journal of Herbs, Spices and Medicinal Plants and Chairman of the Medicinal and Aromatic Plant Section of the International Society for Horticultural Science. Professor Craker's research interest in medical marijuana developed from his work with other medicinal plants.

Professor Craker is currently appealing the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA's) denial of his application to grow marijuana at the University of Massachusetts for medical research. Professor Craker's battle to break the federal government's monopoly on medical marijuana available for research began in 2001 when a non-profit organization seeking to develop marijuana into a prescription medicine approached him about growing research-grade marijuana of the quality needed to meet FDA approval. At that time, he applied to the DEA for a permit to grow medical marijuana, a controlled substance, for use in medical research. The DEA took no action on the application for almost three years until a federal court ordered DEA to respond to the application. In December 2004, the DEA finally denied Professor Craker's application to grow medical marijuana for medical research.

The American Civil Liberties Union represents Professor Craker in the appeal before the DEA's Administrative Law Judge. The Judge could recommend that the DEA approve the application on the basis that doing so would benefit the general public's interest.


Allen Hopper
Allen Hopper is a senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union's Drug Law Reform Project. He represents Professor Lyle Craker in his appeal of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's denial of his application to grow research-grade marijuana for use in studies that aim to develop it into a legal, prescription medicine.

Immediately prior to joining the ACLU, Mr. Hopper was a post-conviction death penalty defense attorney with the California Appellate Project (CAP) in San Francisco. CAP was established by the California Supreme Court and the State Bar to act as liaison to the Court, overseeing and providing case assistance to the lawyers appointed by the Court to represent death row defendants in their state and federal post-conviction proceedings.

At the ACLU, Mr. Hopper focuses on marijuana policy-related litigation. He wrote a legal analysis of the continued validity of state medical marijuana laws in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision in Gonzales v. Raich and has been quoted extensively in the national news media on the topic. Mr. Hopper wrote letters to the attorneys general and head officials in four states demanding that they reinstate medical marijuana laws that were improperly suspended after the Raich decision in June 2005. All states complied. In addition to litigating cases, Mr. Hopper works with ACLU staff to conceptualize public education campaigns that aim to shift our nation's punitive drug policies away from over-incarceration and towards a public health approach. 

Mr. Hopper earned his J.D. from the University of California, Davis, School of Law in 1992.  While in law school, he worked with a Washington D.C. public interest law firm engaged in litigation seeking to expose the relationship between the war on drugs and American foreign policy in Central and South America. Mr. Hopper worked in the Immigration Law Clinic at the U.C. Davis School of Law and did anti-apartheid impact litigation with the Legal Resources Centre in Durban, South Africa.  After graduating from law school and before joining CAP, he worked in private practice focusing on criminal defense, prisoners' rights and police misconduct litigation. 

The government is afraid of the truth: Marijuana may be a safe and effective medicine. The government is forsaking science and putting politics before the public good. We hope that Professor Craker's legal challenge will expose and begin to redress this reprehensible situation.

Rick Doblin, Ph.D.
Rick Doblin is the founder and director of the non-profit research and educational organization, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). One of the primary missions of MAPS is to sponsor scientific research designed to develop marijuana into a Food and Drug Administration- -approved prescription medicine and to educate the public honestly about the risks and benefits of this drug.

MAPS holds the only Orphan Drug designation granted by the FDA for the medical use of marijuana, specifically for AIDS Wasting Syndrome. The Orphan Drug program was created by Congress to facilitate development of drugs for rare diseases diseases affecting less than 200,000 people in a year. Drugs for such rare diseases are not considered sufficiently profitable for pharmaceutical companies, and their research has therefore been minimal, leaving such drugs as orphans. Orphan Drug designation provides a package of incentives for research and development, including seven years of patent protection (exclusive right to market) should convincing data about the drug's safety and efficacy ever be submitted to the FDA, and the drug subsequently approved. Marinol, the oral pill containing the active ingredient in marijuana, THC, was approved for AIDS Wasting under the Orphan Drug program.

MAPS is the sponsor of a research project at a Drug Enforcement Administration -licensed laboratory into the safety and efficacy of the marijuana vaporizer, an alternative non-smoking delivery system for medical cannabis. This laboratory applied over two years ago to purchase 10 grams of marijuana for research from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) currently, the sole supplier of marijuana for medical research. Because NIDA and relevant federal agencies have failed to review the simple research protocol to date, this study has been effectively blocked. NIDA has also refused to supply marijuana to two other FDA-approved human studies sponsored by MAPS, preventing them from taking place. The government's monopoly on marijuana fundamentally obstructs MAPS' effort to develop marijuana into an FDA-approved prescription medicine. Furthermore, NIDA's marijuana, even if made available to MAPS-sponsored researchers, is not necessarily of sufficient quality to meet FDA approval standards.

Beginning in 2000, MAPS has sponsored University of Massachusetts Professor Lyle Craker's efforts to establish a marijuana growing facility to produce marijuana of the quality required to legitimately pursue FDA approval. Rick Doblin is presenting testimony before a DEA Administrative Law Judge that approval of Professor Craker's application to grow research-grade marijuana would benefit the public interest by allowing critical, privately funded, MAPS-sponsored research into the potential medicinal effects of marijuana.

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