Guest Commentary: The quest for medicinal marijuana
In 1999, the Institute of Medicine conducted a study that found medicinal marijuana to be "moderately well suited for particular conditions, such as
chemotherapy-induced nausea, vomiting and AIDS wasting."
In addition, they found that marijuana is not necessarily a "gateway drug." This could lead some to believe that marijuana should be researched and pursued as a medicine, and that they should stop being afraid of the drug because of what has been said over the years. Instead, they should support factual research on the medicinal qualities of the drug and base conclusions off of that.
An integral part of factual research is allowing open peer review instead of research that merely states the conclusions that the government or other organizations want. Lyle Craker, director of the Medicinal Plant Program at the University of Massachusetts, is seeking permission from the Drug Enforcement Agency to conduct research approved by the Food and Drug Administration on the potential medicinal uses of marijuana.
Craker has been trying arduously for the past six years to get approval to build a marijuana-production facility in which to grow high-potency research marijuana. Marijuana grown at this facility could allow private, independent research to occur, which would increase scientific, rather than political, debate on the subject. The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies is funding and assisting Craker’s quest to get approval.
The DEA, with the National Institute on Drug Abuse, runs the only legal research marijuana crop in production. Marijuana is the only Schedule I drug for which the federal government has a monopoly on legal supplies. Craker has asked NIDA for marijuana to conduct the research, but has been turned down despite having followed proper procedure.
To conduct FDA clinical trials of marijuana Craker needs a steady supply of high quality marijuana. Certain parts of the FDA trials require a large quantity of whatever drug is being tested, thus necessitating the facility.
Craker submitted a request to the DEA for permission to build this facility in June of 2001. The DEA stalled numerous times and finally denied his request in December of 2004. Dr. Craker, with the assistance of MAPS, filed a lawsuit against the DEA on July 21, 2004 for obstructing medical research. Judge Mary Ellen Bittner ruled in favor of Craker and stated he should be permitted to grow marijuana in order to conduct MAPS-funded, FDA – and DEA – approved research.
Despite the fact that Bittner is a DEA administrative law judge, the DEA has objected to numerous parts of her ruling, earning the attention of Congress. On June 12, 2007, a hearing led by Reps. Bobby Scott, D-Va., and Jerrold Nadler, D-NY, chided the DEA for its behavior concerning the regulation of marijuana research and insisted that the DEA stop delaying and make its decision before the end of President George W. Bush’s term in January 2009. Forty-five U.S. Representatives have also signed a bipartisan letter to DEA Administrator Karen Tandy pressing her to approve Craker’s request. Included among those were presidential hopefuls Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, and Ron Paul, R-Texas.
A government enforcement agency’s ability to prevent scientific research for no apparent reason is starting to fade. Ideally, this research will lead people to discuss marijuana responsibly and calmly, instead of trying to hide it from the world because of fear. Few would claim marijuana to be medically useless if there was definitive data saying otherwise. For more in-depth information about this on going situation visit the MAPS Web site at www.maps.org.
Blunk, a communication junior, can be reached via [email protected]