Judge Recommends DEA Give Professor Pot-Growing License

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Concluding that there is an inadequate supply of marijuana for medical research, an administrative law judge has recommended to the Drug Enforcement Administration that it grant a Massachusetts professor's application to grow the drug in bulk.

The judge's ruling is nonbinding. But officials at the American Civil Liberties Union hope that the recommendation to grant the application of Professor Lyle Craker will eventually lead to more research into the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

In June 2001, Craker submitted an application as a marijuana manufacturer to the DEA. However, the federal government limits the growing of marijuana available for clinical research to one source, the University of Mississippi.

Federal officials said that Craker's university, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, is free to compete for the next contract to produce research-grade marijuana for the United States. But there was no basis to add another producer.

The company that wants to fund Craker's facility for growing marijuana countered that researchers are not getting the quantity or the quality of marijuana needed to conduct research that is approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

The DEA contacted researchers and determined otherwise, so hearings were held in August and December of 2006 as Craker pursued the case. He got help from the ACLU along the way.

The administrative law judge, Mary Ellen Bittner, concluded Monday that granting Craker's application would be in the public interest. Among the reasons she cited were inadequate competition and an inadequate supply of marijuana for research purposes.

Steve Robertson, a spokesman for DEA, said Monday night the agency is reviewing Bittner's decision and would have no immediate comment. The DEA administrator, Karen Tandy, retains final authority to decide on the application.

"I hope that Administrator Tandy abides by the decision and grants me the opportunity to do my job unimpeded by drug war politics," Craker said in a statement distributed by the ACLU.