The ground-breaking proposal by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (http://www.maps.org) and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst to establish a privately-financed facility to grow high-potency marijuana for Food and Drug Administration-approved research picked up some powerful political patronage last week when both Massachusetts senators sent a letter to DEA administrator Karen Tandy urging her to approve the pending application.
"We are writing to express our strong support for the application by the University of Massachusetts Amherst for registration as a bulk manufacturer of marijuana for distribution to researchers in clinical investigations authorized by the Food and Drug Administration and non-clinical investigations at DEA-licensed laboratories," wrote Senators Edward Kennedy (D) and John Kerry (D). "We believe that the National Institute on Drug Abuse facility at the University of Mississippi has an unjustifiable monopoly on the production of marijuana for legitimate medical and research purposes in the United States... The current lack of such competition may well result in the production of lower-quality research-grade marijuana, which in turn jeopardizes important research into the therapeutic effects of marijuana for patients undergoing chemotherapy or suffering from AIDS, glaucoma, or other diseases."
The support from the senators comes as the MAPS/UMass proposal is in its third year of winding through a maze of federal bureaucracies. Professor Lyle Craker, director of the Medicinal Plant Program at the UMass Amherst Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, first submitted a license application to the DEA in June 2001, but the DEA claimed to have lost it, then refused to accept a photocopy of the application because it lacked an original signature. Craker resubmitted the petition in August 2002, and the DEA now has it under consideration.
Currently, the National Institute on Drug Abuse's Mississippi pot farm is the only source of marijuana that can be used for research, but researchers have called NIDA's supply inferior and low-potency.
The senator's letter was "fantastic" and "will make it significantly more difficult for DEA to reject the application," MAPS said in announcing the assistance. "This is a major step forward in MAPS' efforts to create the conditions necessary for a serious medical marijuana drug development effort aimed at FDA-approval of the prescription use of marijuana, with the two essential elements being an independent source of supply of high-potency marijuana and FDA-approval of the use of vaporizer in clinical research."
Visit http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/301/amherst.shtml for DRCNet's earlier coverage of the MAPS/UMass application.