The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

ASA Media Liaison Kris Hermes 510-681-6361 or ASA
Government Affairs Director Caren Woodson 510-388-0546

Report: Federal Monopoly Obstructs Medical Marijuana Research

Conflict of interest by University of Mississippi professor exposed


Medical marijuana advocates issued a
report today aimed at drawing attention to the federal government's
monopoly on the production of marijuana for medical research. The
14-page report, entitled "Obstruction of Medical Cannabis Research in
the U.S.," highlights the federal effort to impede therapeutic research
on marijuana and exposes a conflict of interest for University of
Mississippi professor Mahmoud ElSohly, who holds an exclusive
cultivation license issued by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the national medical marijuana
advocacy group that issued the report, draws attention to the ways in
which the federal monopoly impedes meaningful research and points to
the need for a new policy that can be implemented under the Obama
Administration. "In the United States, research is stalled," said Caren
Woodson, ASA's Government Affairs Director. "And, in some cases,
research is blocked by a complicated federal approval process, which
restricts access to research-grade marijuana."

Specifically, the report emphasizes the way in which government
agencies -- namely the DEA and the National Institute on Drug Abuse
(NIDA) -- selectively delay the process by which researchers obtain
marijuana for FDA-approved studies. The report also highlights a
federal "double standard" on medical marijuana illustrated by testimony
from public officials who concede to marijuana's therapeutic efficacy
as long as it is produced in pill.

The report also emphasizes a 2007 ruling by the DEA's own
Administrative Law Judge Mary Ellen Bittner that "the existing supply
of marijuana [for research] is not adequate" and that an expansion of
such research is "in the public interest." Judge Bittner's
recommendations were in response to an application by University of
Massachusetts at Amherst professor Lyle Craker to be another cultivator
of marijuana for FDA-approved studies. The application was denied by
the DEA in the final weeks of the Bush Administration and is currently
being appealed. In March 2009, the Los Angeles Times editorialized
that, "The attorney general (Holder) should heed calls to end the DEA's
obstruction of serious research into the medicinal value of marijuana."

Perhaps most alarming is the report's exposure of the federal license
that enables professor ElSohly to exclusively produce marijuana for the
pharmaceutical company Mallinckrodt, a subsidiary of Tyco
International. This arrangement appears to be for the purpose of
bringing to market a generic form of Marinol (a pill of THC, the active
compound in marijuana, suspended in oil) due to go off-patent in 2011,
thereby directly enriching ElSohly at a price that he and/or the
federal government sets. To enable this scheme, the U.S. government has
requested the United Nations increase a quota (from past years) for
marijuana production by 900 percent. The request to increase federal
marijuana production is a requirement of the U.N. Single Convention on
Narcotic Drugs.

Recommendations outlined in the report include, implementation of Judge
Bittner's 2007 recommendations, streamlining the approval process for
obtaining research-grade marijuana, and ultimately a removal of
marijuana from the list of Schedule I substances, so that it can be
made available to all who would benefit from its therapeutic
properties. "The current research challenge is to conduct large-scale
human clinical trials that evaluate the remarkable range of potential
applications for cannabis-based treatments to specific medical
conditions," continued Woodson.

Further information:

ASA report on the obstruction of medical cannabis research in the

DEA Administrative Law Judge Bittner 2007 ruling:

Americans for Safe Access is the nation's largest organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research.