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MAPS BULLETIN
MAPS Bulletin Summer 2014: Research Edition
 
Media > Recent and Archival
September 2, 2011

DEA’s Michele Leonhart: If Science Disagrees, We’ll Shut Down Research

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Despite plentiful scientific that marijuana has the potential to ease pain, reduce depression, and even reduce the likelihood of certain kinds of cancer, the DEA still clings to their dogma that marijuana has no medical uses. By officially rejecting Professor Lyle Craker’s request to grow marijuana for federally-regulated research, the DEA has shown that when science disagrees with their policy, they’d rather stop the science than change their routine.


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WAMC is reporting that U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency Administrator Michele Leonhart has signed a second order denying University of Massachusetts Amherst professor Lyle Craker’s appeal on the agency’s original ban, prohibiting Craker from growing marijuana in the University lab for medical research. Craker originally applied for permission in 2001, citing the homogenous strains, restricted supply and limited quantity provided by the Federal Government.

This has been a long standing problem in the field of medical marijuana research; while the DEA and the NIDA often dismiss study results showing the efficacy of cannabis for a wide variety of ailments, they generally fail to mention that they are the very reason more research doesn’t occur.

The American Botanical Council studied this bottleneck at length, writing in their journal:

“Dozens of varieties of cannabis (Cannabis sativa, Cannabaceae) grow on a 12-acre outdoor plot controlled by the National Center for Natural Products Research (NCNPR) at the University of Mississippi.1,2 This operation supplies cannabis, commonly referred to as marijuana, for all research in the United States, through a contract between NCNPR and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Although NIDA puts the contract up for bid every 5 years, it has awarded this contract solely to NCNPR since 1968. NCNPR has thus been the only federally-permitted source of cannabis, which it can distribute to researchers only as directed by NIDA—a situation that both entities hesitate to call a monopoly.

“We always look very carefully at all the proposals that come in,” said Steve Gust, PhD, special assistant to the director of NIDA (oral and e-mail communications, September 2–November 15, 2009). “It just so happens that the University of Mississippi was the first one and has been very effective in maintaining their competitiveness.”

Due to NIDA’s monopoly on the production of cannabis, cannabis research is regulated unlike that of any other substance. While all human clinical research using controlled substances must receive approval from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and permission from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to proceed with an Investigational New Drug (IND),3,4 since 1999, cannabis research proposals must additionally receive scientific merit approval from the Public Health Service (PHS).1,5 Research protocols for no other controlled substance require PHS review, and the policy for this process does not specifically state why the PHS review is required. According to Dr. Gust, PHS involvement is necessary because NIDA is unqualified for judging medicinal research protocols, as the agency’s focus is drug abuse.1 Dr. Gust explained that even if a cannabis research proposal is approved by DEA and FDA, it can still be denied by PHS.

Additionally, before a cannabis researcher can receive permission from FDA for his or her IND to proceed, NIDA must first decide that it has sufficient cannabis available to support the proposed study.5 According to Dr. Gust, NIDA also determines availability for additional scheduled substances, but while these can be manufactured and distributed by non-governmental entities, the government allows cannabis to be distributed only through NIDA.1

“It just so happens that NCNPR is the only legal source of marijuana, so researchers come to us,” said Dr. Gust.”

Just so happens…convenient, yes? Despite the fact that studies have shown that Cannabis does everything from ease pain to cure cancer, the DEA has dogmatically clung to their talking point of no medical value. By restricting access to cannabis from researchers, they slow the growth of medical knowledge regarding potential medical uses in all disciplines.

Science has shown time and time again that the war on cannabis is political, not based in fact, or any real perception of public risk. With more and more scientists wanting to be part of a breakthrough industry which is revolutionizing patient care, the Federal Government can no longer deny the truth. They’ve decided instead to simply silence it.


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