Posted by Guest
This post was written by Rick Doblin, Ph.D, who is a member of ASA’s Medical and Scientific Advisory Board and who founded and leads M.A.P.S., the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a nonprofit that since 1986 has assisted scientists in designing, funding, obtaining approval for and reporting on studies into the risks and benefits of marijuana and psychotropic drugs.
ASA has done impressive work these last few weeks trying to overcome a last-minute Bush Administration blow to scientific freedom and to medical marijuana research. ASA’s efforts are increasing the chances that the new Obama Administration will reject the Bush Administration’s active suppression of medical marijuana research in favor of a policy of science over ideology.
The most logical approach to ending the controversy over the medical use of marijuana is to conduct the research and gather the data required by FDA to evaluate whether marijuana should be approved as a prescription medicine. For over 40 years, the major obstacle to this approach has been the federal government’s monopoly on the supply of marijuana than can be used in legal, federally-licensed research.
Less than a week before the Bush Administration had to leave office, the DEA ended almost two years of passive resistance (death by delay) to the possibility of privately-funded medical marijuana research. On January 14, 2009, DEA published in the Federal Register its rejection of the February 12, 2007 recommendation of DEA Administrative Law Judge Bittner that it would be in the public interest for DEA to license Prof. Lyle Craker, UMass Amherst, to grow marijuana exclusively for federally-approved research. DEA has been quite successful in its efforts to block scientific research into the medical use of marijuana, since Prof. Craker first submitted his MAPS-sponsored application to DEA on June 25, 2001!
DEA’s final ruling was a mix of old arguments that DEA ALJ Bittner had already rejected after extensive hearings and cross-examinations of witnesses, along with the same old, stale arguments but based on new evidence that the DEA was citing and introducing for the first time into its final ruling.
In a further challenge to the Obama Administration, shortly after the inauguration on January 20, 2009, the DEA launched five raids in California against medical marijuana dispensaries, which Obama had promised on the campaign trail to eliminate.
ASA has been working actively for years to assist Prof. Craker, and was poised to react immediately after DEA issued its final ruling.
On January 30, ACLU lawyer Allen Hopper and Julie Carpenter, of the DC firm Jenner & Block, with research assistance from me, filed a Motion to Reconsider with DEA, based on Prof. Craker’s need to review the new evidence entered into the record by DEA and to refute the biased and misleading inferences that DEA drew from that evidence. Our goal for the Motion to Reconsider was to bring this matter to the attention of the Obama Administration in the hopes that new officials at DEA would see the matter differently than the holdovers from the Bush Administration who are still in charge at DEA.
ASA then did great in two different ways. ASA helped generate pressure on the White House protesting the DEA’s post-election raids. This resulted in a statement on Wednesday, Feb. 4 by a White House spokesperson that Obama would end the raids once his appointees were in place at DEA.
ASA also generated a letter from Rep. Olver (whose district includes UMass Amherst) and 15 other Congressional Reps to the just-confirmed new Attorney General Eric Holder, requesting that he ensure that DEA granted the Motion to Reconsider.
As of next Friday, February 13, Prof. Craker’s lawyers need to file an appeal of the final ruling in the SC Circuit Federal Court of Appeals, unless DEA responds to the Motion to Reconsider.
For the last months, it seemed that the Obama Administration might throw drug policy as a bone to the right wing. The initial person proposed as Drug Czar, Rep. Jim Ramstad, stirred up such protests due to his opposition to needle exchange and harm reduction that he withdrew himself from consideration, saying he didn’t really want the job.
Two weeks ago, I had a dream. I was present at a party at which President Obama was going to attend. I decided to speak to him about the Craker case, and DEA’s final ruling. When President Obama entered the door to the party, I was one of the first in line to speak with him. I had a good chance to explain the issue to him. Then he said, “This is going to be a difficult issue to resolve.” He called an aide over to us, and I expected he was going to instruct the aide to work on resolving this matter. Instead, when the aide arrived, President Obama spoke to him and pointed to the buffet table at the side of the room, saying, “Try that lamb, it’s delicious.” The Craker issue wasn’t going to be resolved, and I woke up. After pondering the feelings of frustration and helplessness I felt, I interpreted the dream as meaning that medical marijuana policy was going to be the delicious sacrificial lamb thrown by Obama to the right wing.
That may still be the case, but it seems less likely now that ASA is so skillfully on the case.