UMass Professor Blocked From Growing Marijuana For Medical Research

BOSTON — Although Massachusetts is now the 18th state to allow the medical use of marijuana, scientists continue to grapple with understanding the properties of the drug and developing pot into medicine. Some researchers blame the federal government for blocking more study that could clarify marijuana’s medicinal benefits. The federal government says marijuana has no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse, and it recently upheld marijuana’s classification in the same category of drugs as heroin and LSD.

Lyle Craker is an agriculture professor at UMass Amherst who studies medicinal plants. For more than a decade, he’s tried to get permission from the federal government to grow marijuana for medical studies. Rick Doblin is founder and director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, or MAPS, which is sponsoring Craker’s efforts.

WBUR’s Deborah Becker spoke with Craker and Doblin, who said that some 40 years after researchers first touted marijuana’s medicinal benefits, they haven’t been able to get very far.

UMass professor Lyle Craker (Courtesy)

UMass professor Lyle Craker (Courtesy)

Rick Doblin: Our goal is to try to develop the science that would enable the FDA to evaluate whether marijuana deserved to be a prescription medicine from Phase 3 large-scale studies, which have not been conducted yet.

Deborah Becker: There have been studies conducted that have shown that marijuana is beneficial in some cases.

Rick Doblin: Yes, there’s been studies that are small pilot studies, Phase 2 studies. But they don’t count for making marijuana into a prescription medicine.

Professor Craker, have you done any research thus far on marijuana and its potential medical properties?

Lyle Craker: No, absolutely not. That’s illegal by federal law.

Have you grown any for research at this point, or been able to?

Lyle Craker: No, ma’am. That’s illegal. No, I’ve never participated in any marijuana use or anything like that. This has to be done legally, completely, for it to have any valid type of information that will be available and stand up to scientific scrutiny.

Why get involved in this and try to grow marijuana for research?

Lyle Craker: When I first talked to Rick, I said to myself, “Well, this is just another plant material. We should be examining this, because it has supposedly some medicinal effects.” I thought it would be just like any other plant: we’d get a license from the DEA to grow the material, and then it could go out to medical doctors to run clinical trials. I found out since it’s not as easy as it looks.

It’s my understanding that right now if you want to do research on marijuana that is federally sponsored research, it all comes from one place at the University of Mississippi, and it’s a very strict set of rules for you to be able to do that. Is that what you’re opposed to?

Lyle Craker: No, I’m not opposed to that. But what I’m opposed to is the monopoly. We need to have multiple sources so that we can get different types of grade, we can better grade marijuana onto the testing.

Rick Doblin: The source is really NIDA, the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The University of Mississippi grows under contract to NIDA. They have a grant, a five-year grant. And then NIDA decides where their marijuana gets allocated.

They’ve actually claimed that they have over 100,000 grams. We’ve spent seven years trying to buy 10 grams for research with vaporizers. (Vaporizers heat the marijuana up; they don’t burn it.) And we were rejected after seven years of effort.

We’re working right now with MDMA, ecstasy, with post-traumatic stress disorder in veterans. And we’re getting great results, and we have approval. We’ve got a marijuana PTSD protocol that has been approved by FDA and an institutional review board at the University of Arizona, and the public health service and NIDA have refused to supply us the marijuana.

Only marijuana has a single producer monopolized by the federal government, in the agency that has a vested interest in preventing research being done into the beneficial uses.

So Professor Craker has petitioned for permission to grow marijuana for research, and this case is still pending. Can you explain?

Rick Doblin: Starting in the year 2000, after I had had — MAPS had had two marijuana studies approved by FDA and rejected by NIDA, so we couldn’t do them, I spent a year looking for the Rosa Parks of medical marijuana litigation. And I ended up finding Lyle.

2001 was the first submission that he made to the DEA for a license. In 2007, the DEA administrative law judge ruled that it would be in the public interest for Lyle to get a license. And the DEA administrator rejected the recommendation. And now we’re in the appeals court, waiting for a ruling.

And that’s in the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston?

Rick Doblin: Yes.

Professor Craker, what do you make of all of this?

Lyle Craker: Politics seems to rule, as opposed to science, and I feel myself as a scientist, which I think is a struggle for the truth. And I think what we need to find out is the truth about marijuana. Until we can actually grow the material, get some standardized plant material and be able to test it on human patients, we’re kind of stuck here.

MAPS does advocate the use of some drugs. And some folks might say, “Well, you’re just trying to get government approval for studies about drug use.”

Rick Doblin: We’re not trying to change the drug laws. We’re trying to develop drugs as medicines. The concern that you’re raising is: Are we biased? Do we have a self interest? And my response to that, because I do get that question a lot, is scientific methodology. That’s what science is for. Everybody has their biases. And so we’re trying to develop methodologically rigorous studies that are evaluated by FDA the same way they evaluate evidence for any other drug.

We asked for response from the DEA, and the agency referred us to court documents, which argue the government has both adequate quantity and quality of marijuana for research. NIDA — the National Institute on Drug Abuse — also tells us that between 1999 and 2011, it provided marijuana for 15 of the 18 FDA-approved medicinal marijuana studies proposed to the agency. None of those was a Phase 3 study, aimed at developing a medicine.


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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001977356259 Mike Smith


  • Jobbie

    Big Pharma doesn’t like this

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=584608060 Mark Boozer

      They stand to lose billions of dollars in profit revenue. If your industry was about to lose all of it’s patented revenue streams to an easy to produce “NATURAL” plant, wouldn’t you scream and yell about how it’s evil???

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1487810471 Philip Daniels

    Smoke some ! That’ll give you enough evidence … Lol !

    • Duncan20903

      Why is it that you think that the government stonewalling legitimate research into a substance that will cause sick people to suffer less is a laughing matter?

      • PeteP51D

        …as with so many other important issues in this country, it’s not so much who will benefit from developing these new drugs or products, it’s who stands to LOSE by making these new products available? Like pharmaceuticals. Aside from the seriously ill who might benefit from new drugs developed for PTSD, AIDS, MS, Glaucoma, ect, what if even 5% of consumers found that a few bong-rips works better for them than the Ambien, Zoloft, Valium, NyQuil, Midol, (you name it) they are presently prescribed? It quickly adds up to BILLIONS of dollars in lost profits to these companies. The same applies to the liquor industry. What if another 5% chose a green bud over a canned Bud at the end of their work day? And there are hundred’s of products that just the (non-intoxicating) hemp plant would compete against for market share such as cotton, paper, using hemp instead of corn as Bio-mass to produce ethanol, hemp seed as a high-quality food source, just to name a few. These powerful special interests spend millions if not billions of dollars each year lobbying Washington to maintain the status-quo and prevent cannabis products from entering the playing field. It’s a sad fact in America that if you want relief from pain (or wish to decompress), you must pay for it. To do otherwise makes you a criminal. In our so-called “Free-Market” society the rules are written so that there’s is no place for a product you can produce for free in your backyard…

  • Guest

    Asking why the government will not allow for any beneficially aimed studies on Marijuana is like asking why wouldn’t someone want to stand in front of incoming traffic. They already know it does; patent #6630507 is owned by the federal government, it discusses cannabinoids used as antioxidants. Cannabinoids are the compounds found in the Marijuana plant. Those cannabinoids interact with our endocannabinoid system which attaches itself perfectly to it, like a key to a lock. This system regulates multiple functions in our bodies, like for example sleep, apatite, pain, among others. This patent is proof that the government is at least aware of how cannabinoids can be used, therefore must know that Marijuana, even in it’s raw plant form, does contain medicinal value. It will be difficult for the government to legalize without appearing guilty of negligence, specially the D.E.A. So either through congress or the voters in their states will legalization be able to occur. The federal government is staying out of incoming traffic on this one.

    • alfred e newman

      theres been 20000 studies not counting Rick Simpson plus they studied it in Israel. lots of pharmacies know what strains work for which diseases .it’ll b legal before the govt says it works, then they can pound sand

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1018680638 Gustavo Picciuto

    Asking why the government will not allow for any beneficially aimed studies on Marijuana is like asking why wouldn’t someone want to stand in front of incoming traffic. They already know it does; patent #6630507 is owned by the federal government, it discusses cannabinoids used as antioxidants. Cannabinoids are the compounds found in the Marijuana plant. Those cannabinoids interact with our endocannabinoid system which attaches itself perfectly to it, like a key to a lock. This system regulates multiple functions in our bodies, like for example sleep, apatite, pain, among others. This patent is proof that the government is at least aware of how cannabinoids can be used, therefore must know that Marijuana, even in it’s raw plant form, does contain medicinal value. It will be difficult for the government to legalize without appearing guilty of negligence, specially the D.E.A. So either through congress or the voters in their states will legalization be able to occur. The federal government is staying out of the incoming traffic on this one.

    • Duncan20903

      The patent is for sale with sweetheart terms and has been since 2003. There’s no one interested in buying this patent, it’s worthless. So what’s so special about this patent nobody wants to exploit over the other thousands and thousands of patents for cannabinoids or ancillary processes related to cannabis? Why do you people keep beating the 6,630,507 dead horse?


      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1018680638 Gustavo Picciuto

        I haven’t made any claims to the importance of the contents of this patent but rather the simple fact that it is owned by the government. Just the fact they own this patent shows their awareness of the medicinal value of marijuana. I was using this patent to make that point, not to regard it as some miracle cure. There is nothing special about the patent itself but rather who owns it; that does have value in the sense that it associates the government with the efficacy of marijuana as medicine.

        • Duncan20903

          All it shows is their awareness of the Orphan Drug Act. Did you know that The United States of America was the first patent owner of Marinol®?

          It’s certainly not hard to prove that the US government is aware of the medicinal utility of cannabis. We don’t need to use worthless patents or bogus quotes from Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln to make our points. Try using DEA Administrative Law Judge Francis Young’s 1988 ruling instead.

          Judge Young from page 68:

          “If marijuana should be placed in Schedule II, in obedience
          to the law, then that is where marijuana should be placed, regardless of misinterpretation of the placement by some. The reasons for the placement can, and should, be clearly explained at the time the action is taken. The fear of sending such a signal cannot be permitted to override the legitimate need, amply demonstrated in this record, of countless suffers for the relief marijuana can provide when prescribed by a physician in a legitimate case.

          The evidence in this record clearly shows that marijuana has been accepted as capable of relieving the distress of great numbers of very ill people, and doing so with safety under medical supervision. It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for DEA to continue to stand between those sufferers and the benefits of this substance in light of the evidence in this record.

          The administrative law judge recommends that the Administrator conclude that the marijuana plant considered as a whole has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, that there is no lack of accepted safety for use of it under medical supervision and that it may lawfully be transferred from Schedule I to Schedule II. The judge recommends that the Administrator transfer marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II.”

          Why is it that you so hate the truth?


          • HmmmSaysDavidHume

            You could be exceptionally effective if you polished your comments and excised the criticism of your fellow activists. Leadership is what is required for the movement all over this nation. Channeling your passion into more effective speach will go a long way.

            I hope you will examine your words and make them more effective. The opportunity is there for you if you will only seize it.

      • HmmmSaysDavidHume

        It’s worthless because cannabis is illegal under the CSA. It will be worth billions if the CSA is amended or repealed. Patent’s trade like stock shares. Their value is reflective of the present value of future cash flows (which right now is $0).

        Lemme guess, you’re in some form of law enforcement? The retired DEA administrator who blocked all research did the same nonsense in an LA TImes letter to the editor.

        It’s time for everyone in this nation to start asking tougher questions of our lawmakers and leaders about his. This gross oppression of our citizens WILL be dismantled. History will regard Prohibitionists as the hate-filled, greedy, and power hungry oppressors they are.

        • Duncan20903

          Hogwash. It’s for sale under sweetheart terms pursuant to the Orphan Drug Act.

          No sunshine, why not click my avatar or Google my screen name before you make fantasy land guesses?

          Did you even bother to click on the link to the search of the USPTO to at least take a glance at the other 6,965 items returned for the keyword cannabinoid?

          People like yourself do more to harm the cause of cannabis law reform with your factless blather. Why is it that people like you can’t leave the utter disregard of factual evidence and the use of deception to the prohibitionists? All you’re doing is giving them more fodder for they’re hysterical rhetoric, and it’s even worse when you do it because you have the truth on your side.

          • HmmmSaysDavidHume

            Wow, angry brah? Sorry I didn’t bother to look up your avi before responding to your opinion with mine. I seek knowledge and understanding, not enmity.

            Yes, I did look at the link. I also looked into the Orphan Drug Act. I don’t see the connection there, but it’s my first look too. Maybe you can educate us. Ultimately that’s why I read the articles and comment with others.

            As for the value of those patents, I stand by my words. Even if I bought it and thought it to be worth much more, where will I acquire or grow the cannabis? Where will I process it? Who’s going to call the DEA/DOJ and tell everyone ‘Hands off on this one. They own a patent they bought from us so they are exempt under the CSA.’? Who will allow me to sell the products derived? Will the DEA approve Phase III trials? How can I do R&D on a Schedule I narcotic? What legal costs do I expose myself to? What reputational damage might I suffer if my shareholders and stakeholders read about us havin our assets seized and accounts frozen under forfeiture laws? The questions go on and on, and we haven’t even broached the Patriot Act or any related acts that deal with money laundering. We haven’t dealt with banks who may pull away because of money laundering laws that could potentially place them in the Feds crosshairs.

            I have a hard time coming up with any way whatever to monetize the patent. Maybe someone out there does but so far no one has bought it. So again, the value of any investment reflects the present value of future cash flows, discounted at a rate commensurate with an investor’s cost of capital, required rate of return, best alternative investment, and expected return. In each calculation, the cash flows, by my estimation and apparently everyone else’s, is $0. In a different environment? Maybe a different figure, and substantially so. Right now? $0.

            As for discussing the patent as a tool to illustrate the government’s deception, I personally think it’s an excellent tool. It’s especially effective against those ‘hysterical rhetoric’ types who dupe readers with the ‘its not medicine and users are fakers.’ And most readers aren’t nearly as informed as you are. So it’s important to keep educating others about the ways the government has deceived them. I disagree with you on this point.

            Lastly, if someone on your side says something you believe is factually or rhetorically incorrect, wouldn’t you rather seize the opportunity to educate them – and by extension everyone else reading? Would people be better off if, instead of harsh responses you used the Feel-Felt-Found Technique to ease any discomfort they may have about the topic? People’s emotions are just as important as facts, and appealing to both is exponentially more fruitful than appealing to only one or the other. This is fact. I use these techniques every single day in the real world, and I am QUITE successful.

            I took an honest look at my statements as part of my response then and now. If you wish to publicly excoriate me for not looking you up or for disagreeing with you, I’ve got thick skin. But I’d prefer we work together to advance the cause. Divided we fall…

          • Duncan20903

            If you want to be united with me then you need to learn how to be ethical. No sunshine, I’m not angry, I’m trying to get the people on our side to quit promoting fraudulent information.

            But seriously, you knee jerk call me a DEA agent/enemy of freedom without any basis after you were called out for being deceptive and you want me to be more reasonable? Seriously?

            If you think that lying is an acceptable strategy then it’s “divided we fall.” I’ll call out your deception again if you choose to post about 6,630,507 again and I happen to see it. Count on it “bruh.”


          • HmmmSaysDavidHume

            And there you have it folks, the voice, intellect, leader and face of the movement…

        • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

          its worthless because anyone could make their own for cheap so no money for big pharma even if it was legal

  • http://www.facebook.com/rick.green.12532 Rick Green
    • http://twitter.com/AdeleCulp Adele Culp

      how is the oil available?

  • http://www.facebook.com/tyrone.biggims.35 Tyrone Biggims

    Prohibitionist are scum bags!! The Government claims marijuana has no medical value and causes a host of problems. Yet your not allowed to do reasearch to verify those accusations or to test the properties of marijuana to see if they do in fact have any medical value. The Govenment is basically saying, “take our word for it, it’s bad for you. Why? Because we said so and because we believe it should be bad for you.” You would think prohibitionist would be excited to permit research because if it is as bad they say it is then the reasearch would prove it. Lol However, they know they are wrong that’s why they supress research.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kevin-Hunt/100003205282238 Kevin Hunt

      Dr. Gabriel Nahas was often quoted by NIDA. Dr Nahas was forced to retract most of his “findings” due to pressure from his fellow scientists. ”

      Nahas led a group of researchers who testified that marijuana may cause lung damage, birth defects, genetic abnormalities, shrinkage of the brain, impairment of the immune system, reduction in testosterone levels, and sterility. All of these alleged hazards proved to be exaggerated or unfounded.

      Much of the research cited in the Eastland hearings was heavily criticized soon after it appeared. Some of it was laughably bad, with skewed samples and no control groups.” Source: http://reason.com/blog/2012/07/12/gabriel-g-nahas-who-warned-us-to-keep-of

  • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

    these scientists are stupid. if they want their research funded and cannabis supplied then tell the govt you are going to prove how dangerous it is . then “accidentally” discover all its safety and efficacy for many common maladies. At that point they will cut your funding like they did with the Dreher study which showed it to be beneficial for pregnant women but it will be too late. then the next time the DEA trys to prove in court its dangerous ( 0 overdoses, ever) and that it has no medical usage (the govt owns a patent for cannabis for use killing cancer) there will be even more evidence and maybe that would convince a judge to do the right thing.

    • HmmmSaysDavidHume

      Yes you are right in principle and I rec’d your comment, but the researchers want total scientific validity and ANY breach of that standard, even if it means lying just to get the material, renders it invalid and open to complete refutation by those with vested interests in the illegal status. No, they have to do it that way or it just won’t be granted valid status as science.

      • http://www.facebook.com/kathryn.rifkin Kathryn Rifkin

        However, no other plant has ever been held to such a high standard to prove its worthiness to live. Imagine the last of its kind being hunted down and destroyed.

        • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

          by banning it they have made it into the biggest cash crop in the country so we wont have to worry about them destroying them all any time soon lol

      • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

        yeah scientists are funny like that

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003854179878 Orange Sunshine

      Great idea, but already been done. Google “nixon drug commission”, if you want a US example. Already been done in research from other countries.

      • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

        its getting challenged all the time the DEA just won in court a few weeks ago but it will inevitably come up again and at some point someone will do the right thing god willing

  • bob

    Yet the federal Government has Standards of use and supplies patients directly. Has for years. Lies upon lies………….What is so scary about the truth. Nobody has died in 7000 yrs from marijuana……..what FDA drug can that be said about.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kevin-Hunt/100003205282238 Kevin Hunt

    “Smoked cannabis was well tolerated and effectively relieved chronic neuropathic pain from HIV-associated sensory neuropathy. The findings are comparable to oral drugs used for chronic neuropathic pain.”

    DI Abrams, CA Jay, SB Shade, H Vizoso, H Reda, Neurology, 2007 – AAN Enterprises

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001409235006 Andrew Boughter

    As a disabled veteran with a seizure disorder from TBI I can and have testified to the efficacy of cannabis

  • Magik13

    Watch out for that “evil” marijuana. We don’t want people having medicines that actually work ya know. People that live and act from a place of fear and ignorance are just plain stupid.

  • HmmmSaysDavidHume

    The governmental agencies are legally required to do anything and everything they can to prevent the legalization of marijuana. when they do approve trials, they are trials the agency believes will show net harm, not medical benefit. The reality is these researchers are being blocked because the NIDA is fearful that a Phase III trial will result in them being REQUIRED to certify cannabis’ properties as efficacious for a wide variety of ailments. They fear this certification will result in cannabis being widely used by the public.

    Fear of the boogeyman, codified by President Nixon’s Controlled Substances Act, which necessarily results in unconscionable behavior of the government towards its citizens. The result: 40 years of deliberate lies and deception by the NIDA. Your government and the people in it are purposely blocking research, to the suffering and death of your family and friends. They have been doing so for 40 years.

    Your question, as a citizen of this nation, is whether or not you will continue to elect Prohibitionists to office. Ask them if they support prohibition. If they do, they support the continued lies and deception that is the codified, legal foundation of this vast criminal enterprise known as the DEA/NIDA/ONDCP.

  • Al Dorman28

    Useless DEA needs to be downsized, if not abolished.

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy


  • Dr. Milton Byrd

    1st… I wish to thank Professor Craker for his attempts, and to encourage him to continue to challenge for testing/research… it is essential for the future of medicine to re-frame pharmacology. The blind prejudice the government maintains is counter productive to “We The People” and our needs. Leadership is an issue in this prohibition mindset from the federal government. The attitude will change over time with the revelations of truth… how long will it take… an unknown for now. Dr. Milt

  • Apocalyptik Green

    Cannabis is an amazing plant that has so much potential. Medicine, textiles, fuel, building materials, food and much more. It is completely ignorant to just toss it aside as nothing but a “bad drug”. The only bad thing about cannabis is that we spend $$$$$$$ locking up people and allow drug cartels to prospect the market instead of honest, taxpaying citizens.

    • http://www.facebook.com/kathryn.rifkin Kathryn Rifkin

      Well, that’s where the profit is to be made, not from a free plant, but from a prison for profit industrial complex.

  • Hempest

    Treat cannabis like alcohol and tobacco and merge the DEA and ATF. DEA is too big and ATF too small

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1542652743 Vito Tums

    This interview shows the bias of the federal government. By not allowing researchers to prove the well known positive uses of cannabis. The federal government creates an uneven playing field for medicine research and continues to allow agencies like the DEA to exploit the ignorance of the public concerning cannabis.

    The schedule one status of cannabis is a cash cow for these agencies, allowing them to draw large sums from the budget. It is obvious that the last thing these agencies want is to see their funding cut. This at the expense of public health.

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      mean while they constantly approve drugs then a short while later you see the ads for class action suits from the dangerous and or deadly side effects of the pills they declare safe. and there are people who still trust the government lol

  • Ivan

    Can we all please be honest and just say that we want to play with marijuana because it gets us stoned?

    All this conspiracy theory crap about big pharma and the feds is ridiculous.

    As is the premise that 90% of the people posting on this board would actually give a damn whether the Feds let Lyle (He’s probably the only character in this entire play who actually cares to know if marijuana has UNKNOWN effects) study dope or not if THC’s impact on our mental state mimicked that of aspirin.

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      actually the big push right now is to develop strains that have almost no THC. legit medical patents could care less about getting “stoned”. I think i am going to have to start calling any english speaker who calls cannabis marijuana a racist because doing that is.

  • James CLEAR

    Can we not see why Cannabis needs to be researched?

    It is a much better option to use the potential of Cannabis as a safe and effective medicine than having a population addicted to Benzodiazepine’s (Diazepam/Valium) for many of the same illnesses, particularly anxiety, likewise with substances like Codeine for pain-killing effects.

    Anything can be open to abuse, Cannabis is no exception to this, however other prescription based medications have much more harm potential than the biggest joint you could roll (other than smoke inhalation, ofcourse).

    All I see here is a Professor doing his job and getting blocked by the powers that be without any use of logic and forward thinking.

    CLEAR Media Team
    Cannabis Law Reform

  • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

    does WBUR only have one cannabis stock photo?

  • jeff419

    Have you grown any for research at this point, or been able to?

    Lyle Craker: No, ma’am. That’s illegal. No, I’ve never participated in any marijuana use or anything like that. This has to be done legally, completely, for it to have any valid type of information that will be available and stand up to scientific scrutiny.

    This statement is nonsense. How can the legality of a substance at all affect the scientific method used to study it?

    What we need are some scientists who actually believe in science to do this research without the feds endorsement.

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