Both U.S. senators from Massachusetts, Edward M. Kennedy and John Kerry,
have written a letter to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration urging
approval of an application by the University of Massachusetts to grow
high-quality marijuana for medicinal research.

Backers of the proposal by plant and soil sciences professor Lyle Craker
say support from Kennedy and Kerry, along with the recent refusal by the
Supreme Court to consider penalizing doctors for recommending medicinal
marijuana, put UMass in a much better position to win DEA approval than
previously.

UMass would be only the second legal grower of marijuana for research
purposes. The University of Mississippi has supplied the National Institute
on Drug Abuse with marijuana for 30 years.

In their Oct. 20 letter addressed to DEA administrator Karen Tandy, Kennedy
and Kerry wrote, "We believe that the National Institute on Drug Abuse
facility at the University of Mississippi has an unjustifiable monopoly on
the production of marijuana for legitimate medical and research purposes in
the United States."

According to Kennedy and Kerry, the current lack of competition "may well
result in the production of lower-quality research-grade marijuana, which
in turn jeopardizes important research into the therapeutic effects of
marijuana for patients undergoing chemotherapy or suffering from AIDS,
glaucoma, or other diseases."

Kerry and Kennedy also said in their letter that UMass is "one of the
nation's most distinguished research universities, and it is highly
qualified to manufacture marijuana for legitimate medical and research
purposes with effective controls against diversion."

Craker first applied to the DEA in June 2001, for permission to grow, in a
secure building on the Amherst campus, an initial 25 pounds of high-potency
marijuana, which would be supplied to government-approved researchers. The
project would receive funding from the Multidisciplinary Association for
Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), a Florida-based nonprofit research and
educational organization that seeks to develop marijuana as a prescription
medication approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Massachusetts Congressmen John Olver, Barney Frank, James McGovern, William
Delahunt and Michael Capuano, who support Craker's proposal, wrote to the
DEA urging its approval in June, 2002. But then DEA administrator Asa
Hutchinson responded in a July 1, 2002 letter addressed to Frank that
increasing the numbers of marijuana growers could put the United States in
violation of international treaties and that the University of Mississippi
supply has proven adequate for 30 years.

Rick Doblin, president of the Multidisciplinary Association, said Monday
that supporters of the University of Massachusetts proposal believe
Kennedy's and Kerry's support is a crucial turning point.

"I think the letter from Kennedy and Kerry shows that there is law on the
other side - the law saying we need a competitive environment - to try to
get the data to see whether we can justify to the FDA that marijuana is
safe and efficacious so that it should be a medication. I think the DEA
loses more credibility by trying to protect the government monopoly and
obstruct research," Doblin said.

Doblin said he has approached Gov. Mitt Romney's administration to ask for
the governor's support. "As a venture capitalist in the past, he is dubious
of government monopoly and sympathetic to private industry," Doblin said.
"If Romney comes out and says that it's time for a plan, let science have
its day, I think that will be have the final step. Then we would have
bipartisan support in Massachusetts."

Romney spokeswoman Nicole St. Peter said Monday of the Romney
administration's position on the UMass proposal, "We do not have enough
information about this project to form a decision at this time."


Pubdate: Tue, 28 Oct 2003
Source: Daily Hampshire Gazette (MA)
Copyright: 2003 Daily Hampshire Gazette
Contact: opinion@gazettenet.com
Website: http://www.gazettenet.com/