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Rick Doblin, president of Belmont-based Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), can't believe how long it's dragged on. Since 2001, Dr. Lyle Craker, a UMass professor of plant and soil sciences, has sought, with MAPS's help, to be licensed by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to grow a crop of research-grade marijuana with an eye toward Food and Drug Administration–approved studies into its efficacy as a prescribable medicine. (See "The Right to Grow," August 26, 2005.)

In 2004, the DEA rejected Craker's petition to grow plants that could be studied in place of the poor-quality and parsimoniously distributed federal crop maintained by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The following year, Craker, along with MAPS and the American Civil Liberties Union's Drug Law Reform Project, challenged that decision with extensive testimony before an administrative-law judge who eventually ruled, in a formal but non-binding 2007 recommendation, that Craker should be allowed to proceed.

Now, two years later, as the Bush administration sputters to its end, the DEA has taken a parting shot against science, rejecting that opinion and refusing Craker's license.

If the decision is galling, it's not at all surprising. In fact, says MAPS president Rick Doblin, one news-wire service told him they viewed this as a non-story "because we already know the DEA is against medical marijuana."

But, of course, just days from now, we'll have a new sheriff in town. What then?

"That's what we don't know," says Doblin. Clearly. "The Bush administration decided that they would make it a lot harder for the Obama administration and the DEA [to change course] under whatever new leadership they get."

And while Doblin is heartened by the leftward tack an Obama administration will surely represent on most issues, he's much more circumspect when it comes to drug policy.

For one thing, Obama's purported first choice to lead the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) was less than inspiring. James Ramstad — a former GOP congressman who's voted against medical marijuana and needle-exchange programs — provoked such an outcry from progressives that his appointment appears to have been scotched. (On Monday, Bush appointed ONDCP Acting Director Patrick Ward to serve as the so-called Drug Czar until Obama makes his pick.)

So, even as heartening state-level legislative efforts continue apace, Doblin says he's taking a "wait-and-see approach" when it comes to federal policy.

But despite Obama's welcome signals that he intends to depoliticize his administration's approach to science, such a commitment may, at least in the early going, be hamstrung by a lack of political will. Doblin says one of Obama's science advisors, asked about medical marijuana, told him: "Good luck, but this isn't something that we're necessarily gonna take up."

Related: Pot Edward Island, Smoke screens, Night of the living dead, More more >
  Topics: News Features , Barack Obama, Politics, maps,  More more >
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Re: The DEA says no (again) to medical marijuana. Now what?
 Check out to see what's going on in the city council hearings and how people are no longer taking no for an answer. Respect 65%. Tale of two cities would be a great story for the Phoenix to check out. You got marijuana, city politics, a mayor that did the right thing, a city that didnt, the largest crowd at Quincy City council in several decades. Prospect Hill and the mayor of Methuen on the marijuana ordinance were the lead story over two days in last week's Eagle Tribune. 
And on this article, thank you for writing it. The DEA should not be deciding which medicines we can use or study. Ridiculous. Are they scientists? How do they know the merits? And why should they be the final say? President Obama I hope pulls the DEA aside and tells them it's time to stop being the bad guys all the time! We pay your salary and 65% want you to loosen up on pot and many of that 65% don't even use the stuff! Thanks to the Phoenix for covering these stories in Boston. It's needed with the daily tabloids we have.  
By bostonfreedomrally on 01/24/2009 at 4:38:46

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