Ending the Medical Marijuana Monopoly
For 40 years, scientists studying the potential medicinal benefits of marijuana have had to purchase the drug from a single source -- the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Not only can NIDA deny purchase requests even if the scientists' research has already been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, some say that the quality of the marijuana supplied by NIDA is also sometimes sub-par, containing seeds and stems. Today, thanks to the hard work of organizations like the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) and support from several members of Congress, the fight against this unproductive monopoly seems to be closer than ever to a victory.
According to a recent article in Nature Medicine, in 2004, Lyle Craker, a scientist at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to challenge the supply monopoly. Craker, who hopes to grow the drug himself, won the suit in an administrative law ruling earlier this year, but the DEA responded with a series of objections, citing security concerns, and is still deciding what to do. (There is no requirement for the agency to accept the ruling.)
For instance, the DEA claims that loosening the monopoly would contradict the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which requires governments to own drug stocks. Other countries have, however, found ways around this, according to the article. A UK pharmaceutical company cultivates marijuana for Savitex, a mouth spray for multiple sclerosis, for example.
As the DEA continues to mull over its decision, several members of congress are putting the pressure on. U.S. Representatives John Olver (D-MA) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) have co-sponsored a congressional sign-on letter to encourage the DEA to accept the recommended ruling. So far, according to MAPS, 25 representatives have signed it. You can help by urging your local representatives to do the same.