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UMass loses marijuana lab bid

By Bina Venkataraman
Globe Correspondent / January 13, 2009
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The US Drug Enforcement Administration has rejected the bid of a researcher at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst who wants to create the second laboratory in the nation authorized to grow marijuana for medical research.

The ruling was released yesterday, nearly two years after a federal administrative law judge recommended that Lyle Craker, a horticultural professor who specializes in medicinal plants, be allowed to grow marijuana for medical research. The DEA decision called the current supply of marijuana for research "adequate and uninterrupted" and said a second laboratory would not be in the public interest.

Since 1968, a federally approved laboratory at the University of Mississippi's School of Pharmacy has grown nearly a hundred varieties of marijuana plants. Access to the plants has been limited to researchers who gain federal permits. The plants have been used for clinical studies across the country.

Some researchers complain that access to the laboratory's supply is thwarted by a contract it holds with the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which must approve permits issued by the Food and Drug Administration or the DEA in a process that can take months to complete.

Rick Doblin, president of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a Belmont-based drug research group that wants to fund Craker's marijuana cultivation, and sponsored the suit that spurred the administrative law judge's recommendation in 2007, calls the Mississippi lab a monopoly. He said his group will file another suit or appeal to the Obama administration.

Bina Venkataraman can be reached at bina@globe.com.

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