ACLU on Obama's Policy Regarding Medical Marijuana Research: Where's Your Scientific Integrity Now?


On Friday I noted an A.P. report saying that University of Massachusetts plant scientist Lyle Craker had given up his quest to break the federal goverment's monopoly on the production of marijuana for research. It turns out that report was premature. Yesterday the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing Craker, filed a brief that asks the Drug Enforcement Administration to reconsider its rejection of his application for a license that would allow him to compete with the government's pot farm at the University of Mississippi. Michele Leonhart, who was then the DEA's deputy administrator and has since been appointed by President Obama to head the agency, officially turned Craker down at the very end of the Bush administration, rejecting a 2007 recommendation from DEA Administrative Law Judge Mary Ellen Bittner. The new ACLU brief responds to issues raised by a December 2010 memorandum (PDF) in which Leonhart explained the reasons for her decision. The brief notes the double bind that federal policy creates for medical marijuana advocates:

The government claims that marijuana offers no medical benefit to patients, and yet the government is simultaneously cutting off access to research material for scientific studies that seek to determine what medical benefit marijuana might have. The result is that the federal government remains willfully blind to the possibility of scientific results that do not match its political preconceptions.

The ACLU says the government's obstruction of research that could demonstrate marijuana's therapeutic benefits contradicts Obama's avowed commitment to scientific integrity, as expressed in a widely publicized 2009 memo:

Science and the scientific process must inform and guide decisions of my Administration on a wide range of issues, including improvement of public health…The public must be able to trust the science and scientific process informing public policy decisions. Political officials should not suppress or alter scientific or technological findings and conclusions.

Leonhart is almost certain to say no again (maybe after another couple of years), at which point Craker, who has been fighting this battle for a decade with backing from the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), can appeal Leonhart's decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Even if Craker does not ultimately win, an appeal would help lay out a complete record documenting the irrationality of the DEA's position.

The ACLU brief is here (PDF). MAPS has background on the case and links to other documents in its press release (PDF).