NORML reported yesterday that a final order has been issued by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) which rejects a ruling from it’s own Administrative Law Judge who found that the public interest would be served if the University of Massachusetts was granted a license to grow marijuana for federally regulated research.

By rejecting the finding, the DEA is upholding the monopoly on the supply of marijuana available for FDA (Food and Drug Administration)-regulated research, which is currently held by NIDA – the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Last year, a spokesperson for the DEA told a reporter from the New York Times, “We generally do not fund research focused on the potential beneficial medical effects of marijuana.”

Four years ago, after an extensive number of hearings, DEA Judge Mary Ellen Bittner issued an opinion favoring the University of Massachusetts being granted legal permission to grow cannabis for use in FDA-approved clinical trials.

In her findings, she wrote, “I conclude that granting Respondent’s application would not be inconsistent with the Single Convention, that there would be minimal risk of diversion of marijuana resulting from Respondent’s registration, that there is currently an inadequate supply of marijuana available for research purposes, that competition in the provision of marijuana for such purposes is inadequate, and that Respondent has complied with applicable laws and has never been convicted of any violation of any law pertaining to controlled substances. I therefore find that Respondent’s registration to cultivate marijuana would be in the public interest.”

Two years later, DEA director Michele Leonhart set aside Judge Bittner’s ruling. Last month, in a move that shows that the DEA remains consistent in their misguided opinions, the agency denied a nine-year-old petition seeking to initiate hearings regarding the current federal classification of cannabis, stating that there were no adequate and well-controlled studies that proved any medical benefit.

The agency’s ruling may be appealed in the First Circuit US Court of Appeals, but one must ask, what are the chances that the DEA will honor any subsequent ruling when they’ve created the ultimate Catch-22 with regard to medical marijuana: they refuse to approve hearings to reclassify it because there is not enough research, but they also refuse to allow scientists to engage in the necessary research.

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