Drug War

Uncle Sam's Pot Farm Maintains Its Monopoly

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The Associated Press reports that University of Massachusetts horiticulturist Lyle Craker is giving up his nine-year fight to break the federal government's monopoly on the production of marijuana for research purposes. This monopoly is unusual, since other Schedule I drugs can be legally produced for research by labs with licenses from the Drug Enforcement Administration. But the DEA has refused to allow any competition in marijuana cultivation, which is done exclusively at a University of Mississippi farm (pictured on the right) under contract with the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Craker and other scientists say the government's pot is not potent or varied enough for research on marijuana's medical applications, which neither the DEA nor NIDA, given their institutional missions, have much interest in promoting. In 2007 DEA Adminstrative Law Judge Mary Ellen Bittner recommended that the agency let Craker and other qualified applicants grow marijuana. The DEA rejected her recommendation and denied Craker's application at the very end of the Bush administration. At the time I remarked:

Drug warriors insist that medical marijuana advocates jump through the usual regulatory hoops to get cannabis approved as a medicine. At the same time, they do whatever they can to make that impossible. Removing these senseless obstacles to research is just the sort of moderate reform that Barack Obama—who has promised to call off the DEA's medical marijuana raids and has said doctors should be allowed to prescribe marijuana if research confirms its safety and efficacy—should be able to get behind.

Ha ha. Obama, who still has not stopped those DEA raids, appointed Michele Leonhart, the deputy DEA administrator who rejected Craker's application, to head the agency. A.P. reports that Craker "was frustrated…that he never got a hoped-for boost from the Obama administration.

More on the attempt to privatize legal pot production here.

[Thanks to Richard Cowan for the tip.]