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Feature: With UMass Researcher One Decision Away From Approval to Grow Marijuana, Supporters Turn Up the Heat on the DEA

Six years after he first filed a petition with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) seeking to grow marijuana to supply researchers, University of Massachusetts agronomy professor Lyle Craker is now one decision away from winning DEA approval of his project. Last week, a DEA administrative law judge issued a final recommendation that the project be allowed to move forward.
Lyle Craker (courtesy
Currently, the only marijuana available for scientific and medical research is grown at a US government facility at the University of Mississippi and distributed through the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). But NIDA has proven extremely reluctant to approve scientists' requests for access to marijuana when the research they are planning to conduct is on its medical uses.

"Respondent's registration to cultivate marijuana would be in the public interest," wrote Administrative Law Judge Mary Ellen Bittner in her decision. "There is currently an inadequate supply of marijuana available for research purposes," she concluded, noting also that the risk of diversion was minimal and that Craker had complied with all applicable laws.

But the judge's decision is not binding. The final decision on Craker's petition will be made by the DEA's deputy administrator, and it is by no means certain that the functionary will heed the judge's recommendations. The agency has historically opposed any efforts to end the government monopoly on growing marijuana for research purposes and it has already stated that it disagrees with the judge's conclusions.

Backed by the nonprofit Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), which will finance the research, and represented by the American Civil Liberties Union's Drug Law Reform Project, Craker has persevered for more than half a decade as his request languished in the bowels of the DEA. Now, only one obstacle remains.

In an effort to press the DEA to respond favorably to the petition, Dr. Craker and his backers and supporters held a press conference Wednesday at the agency's Northern Virginia headquarters to turn up the heat. "Working with medical marijuana seems so similar to the work we're doing with other medicinal plants that I've never understood the DEA's big problem with it," said Craker.

"The DEA has an opportunity here to live up to its rhetoric, which has been that marijuana advocates should work on conducting research rather than filing lawsuits," said MAPS president Dr. Rick Doblin "It's become more and more obvious that the DEA has been obstructing potentially beneficial medical research, and now is the time for them to change," he said.

"For almost 20 years, MAPS has been trying to conduct the research," Doblin noted. "We've had two protocols approved by the FDA, one to look at AIDS wasting and the other looking at medical marijuana for migraines. Both were blocked by NIDA, which refused to provide the marijuana we needed to do the studies. We've been struggling for four years to purchase 10 grams for vaporizer research for a non-smoking delivery system. Currently, the government has a monopoly, and our ability to do research is fundamentally compromised," he noted.

"We've won the latest round in the perennial litigation, with the DEA judge recommending that Dr. Craker get the license," said Doblin. "Unfortunately, we have to unleash a major lobbying campaign to get the DEA to live up to its rhetoric. The government is too trapped into the drug war to be comfortable funding studies that might contradict the propaganda and 'send the wrong message.' We have a situation where the government is focused on suppressing research, not facilitating it."

Also at the press conference was medical marijuana patient Angel Raich, whose challenge to federal marijuana laws went all the way to the US Supreme Court before being denied in 2005. "It is extremely frustrating that the federal government has made a really large effort to block research that could help patients like me," said the California woman, who uses marijuana to alleviate the symptoms of seizure disorders, wasting syndrome, and an inoperable brain tumor, among other conditions. "It is time for the government and the DEA to stop playing games with patients' lives," she said.

"The ACLU is involved because we believe patients like Angel should be able to get their medicine from a pharmacy, like everyone else," said the ACLU's Drug Law Reform Project's Allen Hopper. "Judge Bittner reached the only decision she could under the law," he argued, noting that Bittner acknowledged that NIDA had a stockpile of research marijuana, but that researchers were routinely denied access to it.

"We are here today," Hopper continued, "because we are now one step away from entering the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval process. We are confident the administration will do the right thing, but we are also prepared to go to the federal court of appeals to force the DEA to do the right thing if necessary."

An impressive array of politicians and groups is prepared to push the DEA in the right direction. Massachusetts Sens. John Kerry (D) and Edward Kennedy (D) and 38 members of the House of Representatives have joined a broad range of scientific, medical and public health organizations in challenging the federal government's policy of blocking administrative channels and obstructing research that could lead to the development of marijuana as a prescription medicine. These organizations include the Lymphoma Foundation of America, the National Association for Public Health Policy, the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation, as well as several state medical and nurses' associations.

Now it is up to the DEA to render a final decision. The DEA administrator who will make the call is not bound by Judge Bittner's recommendation, nor is she required to make her decision within any timeline. It will be up to public pressure to produce the desired results. Wednesday's press conference was only the beginning.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
Looking for the easiest way to join the anti-drug war movement? You've found it!

What's the plan?

Nice information article, but I would like to see a few ideas listed on what the average person should do to voice their support. Should we call our reps? The DEA? Or do we just sit back and see what happens?

I do love how it's pointed out that the DEA is missing an opportunity to prove themselves right - good one!!!

THC is a very potent

THC is a very potent chemical compared to other psychoactive drugs.
An intravenous (IV) dose of only one milligram (mg) can produce serious mental and psychological effects. Once in your bloodstream, THC typically reaches the brain within seconds after it is inhaled and begins to go to work. Neurons are the cells that process information in the brain.
Chemicals called neurotransmitters allow neurons to communicate with each other.
Neurotransmitters fill the gap, or synapse, between two neurons and bind to protein receptors, which enable various functions and allow the brain and body to be turned on and off.
Foreign chemicals, like THC, can mimic or block actions of neurotransmitters and interfere with normal functions.
In your brain, there are groups of cannabinoid receptors concentrated in several different places. These cannabinoid receptors have an effect on several mental and physical activities, including:
Short-term memory
Problem solving

Cannabinoid receptors are activated by a neurotransmitter called anandamide. Anandamide belongs to a group of chemicals called cannabinoids. THC is also a cannabinoid chemical.
THC mimics the actions of anandamide, meaning that THC binds with cannabinoid receptors and activates neurons, which causes adverse effects on the mind and body.
High concentrations of cannabinoid receptors exist in the hippocampus, cerebellum and basal ganglia. The hippocampus is located within the temporal lobe and is important for short-term memory.
When the THC binds with the cannabinoid receptors inside the hippocampus, it interferes with the recollection of recent events.
THC also affects coordination, which is controlled by the cerebellum.
The basal ganglia controls unconscious muscle movements, which is another reason why motor coordination is impaired when under the influence of marijuana.
Marijuana is filled with hundreds of chemicals, and when it is burned, hundreds of additional compounds are produced.
When marijuana is inhaled or ingested in some other form, several short-term effects occur. Some of the marijuana's side effects are:
Problems with memory and learning
Distorted perception
Difficulty with thinking and problem solving
Loss of coordination
Increased heart rate
Anxiety, paranoia and panic attacks
The initial effects created by the THC in marijuana wear off after an hour or two, but the chemicals stay in your body for much longer.
The terminal half-life of THC is from about 20 hours to 10 days, depending on the amount and potency of the marijuana used.
This means that if you take one milligram of THC that has a half-life of 20 hours, you will still have 0.031 mg of THC in your body more than four days later.
Ongoing studies now show a number of possible symptoms associated with the cessation of marijuana use. These symptoms most commonly include: irritability, nervousness, depression, anxiety and even anger.
Other symptoms are restlessness, severe changes in appetite, violent outbursts, interrupted sleep or even insomnia.
In addition to these possible physical effects, psychological dependence usually develops because a person's mind craves the high that it gets when using the drug.

Beyond these effects that marijuana has, marijuana smokers are susceptible to the same health problems as tobacco smokers, such as bronchitis, emphysema and bronchial asthma. Other effects include dry-mouth, red eyes, impaired motor skills and impaired concentration.
Long-term use of the drug can increase the risk of damaging the lungs and reproductive system, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). It has also been linked to heart attacks.

Typical THC levels, which determines marijuana potency, range from 0.3 to 4 percent. However, some specially grown plants can contain THC levels as high as 15 percent
During early development, cannabidiolic acid is the most prevalent chemical. Later, cannabidiolic acid is converted to cannabidiol, which is later converted to THC
In 2003, drug law enforcement authorities seized 2.7 million pounds (1.2 million kg)of marijuana from illegal operations. Marijuana is also smuggled into the United States from Mexico, Cambodia and Thailand, among other countries.
Approximately 10 percent to 20 percent of the THC is transferred into the body when smoking a joint
About 40 percent to 50 percent of the THC is transferred into the body when using a pipe.

Tens of thousands of people are now in prison for marijuana offenses. An even greater number are punished with probation, fines, and civil sanctions, including having their property seized, their driver's license revoked, and their employment terminated.
People who are intoxicated constantly, regardless of the drug, are unlikely to be productive members of society.

Among high school students, heavy use is associated with school failure, but school failure usually comes first.
The cognitive process most clearly affected by marijuana is short-term memory.
However, they display diminished capacity to learn and recall new information.



Kaiser Health researchers have published a study showing that marijuana use is correlated with a significant increase in the risk of hospitalization due to injuries. The study, published in the April 2003 edition of the Annals of Epidemiology, covered 64,657 subjects from Northern California, of whom 13,971 were current marijuana users. Researchers found that among men, current marijuana users had a 28% higher rate of hospitalization due to injuries than non-users; among women, the increase was 37%; namely that accidents are the number one health hazard from marijuana use.

Curiously, men who used marijuana more frequently (>1x per week) had a lower injury rate than those who used it only occasionally (risk ratios 1.36 and 2.00 respectively). For women, risks increased with frequency of use. However, in the case of motor vehicle accidents, frequent use of marijuana (>1x per week) was associated with a greater than two-fold increase in injuries in both men and women (2.47 and 2.18 respectively).

The Kaiser study also found a significantly higher rate of injuries due to assaults in males (risk ratio 1.90), a result which is difficult to explain as due to marijuana impairment. Like other drug users, marijuana users are known to have a higher risk preference than the general population, and may therefore be more likely to find themselves in dangerous situations.

Sure its not a big amount but what if its your friend or neighbor who was the one high while driving that night that hurt or killed one of your family members ?

But if you're behind the wheel and you kill or paralyze my family and I find you

Theres gonna be hell to pay

Brain Damaged Person who wrote 'THC is very potent'

What drug are you on that gave you such confused brain activity? Caffine? High frutose corn syrup? Sugar? Perscriptions with oily anal discharge?

With people like you yacking off nonsense about the potency of the TREE OF LIFE, the rest of us need medical marijuana to deal with the likes of you.

If people have negative physical reactions to THC, they don't continue use. Those of us who have postive physical reactions to THC use it because it WORKS and we FEEL BETTER.

You conviently ignored the fact that there is a THC receptor in the human brain. God created us READTY TO RECEIVE HIS TREE OF LIFE.

Cannabis/Hemp for:
1. Food (most nutritionally complete seed on the planet)
2. Fuel (bio disel)
3. Fiber (strongest NATURAL fiber for paper, clothing, tissue, money, building materials)
4. Medicine (chemo, pain, depression, MS, eyesight)
5. Plastics
6. Spirituality
and I have to add another special for you 'iamthewitness'
7. Sanity --- when dealing with people like you


I think you need to smoke a joint to suppress some of that pointless regurgitation of mostly disinformation.

are you sure?

"Approximately 10 percent to 20 percent of the THC is transferred into the body when smoking a joint
About 40 percent to 50 percent of the THC is transferred into the body when using a pipe."

im pretty sure your wrong on this as well as many other of your un-cited comments. Please if you are going to lecture the boards provide some citations, and from more sources than just the DEA's website.

Pills and the Feds do more harm.

In my Federal case the Judge said in court that he did not " CARE " how much one suffered. He would NEVER allow Marijuana for Medical reasons even with my doctor stating in court that " STANDARD " treatments and drugs have failed me.

You can read the report as well as see my MRI photo at

As you will see C-7 is blocking fluid from my spine and crushing my Spine cord. I am on 500MG of Morphine a day and can not take anymore as it will stop my breathing and also I am on 60MG of endocet and can not take anymore due to liver shutdown if I do and with those heavy drugs I was still going through 12 or more PAIN convulsions a day and blacking out from them.

I have been forced to live like this now for 20+ years but there is light at the end of the tunnel as my case looks like it will at last make it to a Jury.

For any questions anyone is welcome to contact Mike Assenberg at 509-397-3252

Yes, THC is Very Potent!! =-)

The active ingredient of marijuana could be considerably better at suppressing the abnormal clumping of malformed proteins that is a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease than any currently approved prescription drugs.

Scientists report the finding in the Oct. 2 issue of the journal Molecular Pharmaceutics.

About 4.5 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer's disease, which gradually destroys memory. As more people survive into old age, cases of Alzheimer’s disease are expected to triple over the next 50 years. There is no known cure.
The researchers looked at THC, the compound inside marijuana responsible for its action on the brain.

Computer models suggested THC might inhibit an enzyme with the tongue-twisting name of acetylcholinesterase (also called AChE) that is linked to Alzheimer's.

AChE is known to help accelerate the formation of abnormal protein clumps in the brain, known as amyloid plaques, during Alzheimer's.

This enzyme also helps break down the brain chemical acetylcholine, which is linked to memory and learning. Acetylcholine levels are reduced during Alzheimer's.

In lab experiments, the scientists found THC was significantly better at disrupting the abnormal clumping of malformed proteins.

THC could completely prevent AChE from forming amyloid plaques, while two drugs approved for use against Alzheimer's, donepezil and tacrine, reduced clumping by only 22 and 7 percent, respectively, at twice the concentration of THC used in the tests.

"We're not advocating smoking dope, but if we can make analogues of THC, it could play a role in treating Alzheimer's," researcher Kim Janda, a chemist at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., told LiveScience. "It would be nice to do more animal studies along these lines."

Past research on human brain tissues and experiments with rats have suggested that synthetic analogues of THC can reduce the inflammation and prevent the mental decline associated with Alzheimer's disease.


Oct. 6, 2006 -- THC, the key compound in marijuana, may also be the key to new drugs for Alzheimer's disease.

That's because the marijuana compound blocks the formation of brain-clogging Alzheimer's plaques better than current Alzheimer's drugs.

The finding -- in test-tube studies -- comes from the lab of Kim Janda, PhD, director of the Worm Institute of Research and Medicine at Scripps Research Institute.

"While we are certainly not advocating the use of illegal drugs, these findings offer convincing evidence that THC possesses remarkable inhibitory qualities, especially when compared to [Alzheimer's drugs] currently available to patients," Janda says in a news release.

"Although our study is far from final, it does show that there is a previously unrecognized molecular mechanism through which THC may directly affect the progression of Alzheimer's disease."

Janda's team found that THC blocks an enzyme called acetylcholinesterase, which speeds the formation of amyloid plaque in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease.

The Alzheimer's drugs Aricept and Cognex work by blocking acetylcholinesterase. When tested at double the concentration of THC, Aricept blocked plaque formation only 22% as well as THC, and Cognex blocked plaque formation only 7% as well as THC.

"THC and its analogs may provide an improved [treatment for] both the symptoms and progression of Alzheimer's disease," the researchers conclude.

The findings appear in the Aug. 9, 2006 online edition of the journal Molecular Pharmaceutics, a publication of the American Chemical Society.


Marijuana Compound May Fight Lung Cancer
04.17.07, 12:00 AM ET

TUESDAY, April 17 (HealthDay News) -- While smoking marijuana is never good for the lungs, the active ingredient in pot may help fight lung cancer, new research shows.
Harvard University researchers have found that, in both laboratory and mouse studies, delta-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) cuts tumor growth in half in common lung cancer while impeding the cancer's ability to spread.

The compound "seems to have a suppressive effect on certain lines of cancer cells," explained Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

According to the researchers, THC fights lung cancer by curbing epidermal growth factor (EGF), a molecule that promotes the growth and spread of particularly aggressive non-small cell lung cancers. "It seems to go to (EGF) receptor sites on cells and inhibit growth," said Horovitz, who was not involved in the study.

The findings are preliminary, however, and other outside experts urged caution.

"It's an interesting laboratory study (but) you have to have enough additional animal studies to make sure the effect is reproducible and to make sure that there are no overt toxic effects," said Dr. Norman Edelman, chief medical officer of the American Lung Association. "It's a little more than tantalizing because it's a compound that we know has been in humans and has not caused major problems."

The findings were to be presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) in Los Angeles.

Lung cancer is the number one cancer killer in the world. Lung tumors that over-produce the EGF receptor tend to be extra-aggressive and don't respond well to chemotherapy.

THC is the main active ingredient of Cannabis sativa --marijuana. It has been shown to inhibit tumor growth in cancer, but specific information on its action against lung cancer has so far been limited.

In the new study, the researchers first showed that two different lung cancer lines, as well as samples from patient lung tumors, produced the cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2.

Endocannabinoids -- cannabinoids produced naturally in the body -- are thought to have an effect on pain, anxiety and inflammation when they bind to cannabinoid receptors.

Next, the researchers injected standard doses of THC into mice implanted with human lung cancer cells. After three weeks of treatment, tumors shrank by about 50 percent in animals treated with THC, compared to those in an untreated control group, the researchers reported.

The findings may shed light on a question that has been puzzling Horovitz: Why hasn't there been a spike in lung cancer in the generation that smoked a lot of marijuana in the 1960s.

"I find it fascinating, wondering if the reasons we're not seeing this spike is that THC inhibits lung cancer cells," he said. "It would be very ironic, although you certainly wouldn't tell somebody who smoked cigarettes to add marijuana."

A second set of findings presented at AACR suggested that a viral-based gene therapy could target both primary and distant tumors, while ignoring healthy cells.

When injected into 15 mice with prostate cancer, this "smart bomb" therapy eliminated all signs of cancer -- effectively curing the rodents. Researchers at Columbia University, in New York City, said the therapy also worked in animals with breast cancer and melanomas.

And in a third hopeful trial reported at the meeting, German researchers at University Children's Hospital, in Ulm, said they've used measles viruses to treat brain tumors. In mouse experiments, the virus attached to the tumor from the inside out, the team said.

I'm an old guy of 55.

As an old guy of 55, I'm on Social Security Disability insurance for Rheumatoid Arthritis and I'm a Medical Cannabis user. I've been collecting disability since 1998. Thankfully, I'm a veteran (Army '70 ~ 73', Viet Nam '71~ 72'), so all my health care is free. Recently, I decided to go back to school to try and learn a new way to earn a living. I've been a Pothead since the 60's, and a heavy Pothead since I was diagnosed with the Arthritis. I just finished my 2nd semester at my local community college, and I earned a 3.2 GPA. I was heavily medicated every day I went to school and I believe cannabis helps me to focus on my various tasks at hand. In English, I got an A on every test I took. I was not required to take my English Final-Exam because the resulting grade would have been irrelevant to my final grade. My goal is for a BA in Graphic Design, so that means LOTS of computer work. My first 2 semesters included plenty of English, reading, writing essays, reports, exams, computer work, design work, etc., etc. I realize it's only a community college, but I figure for a high school drop-out that smoked cannabis almost my entire life, a 3.2 GPA still isn't too bad!
Thank you for your support against the ignorance and deceit of Cannabis prohibition.

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