- October 23 - Both U.S. senators from Massachusetts, Edward M. Kennedy and John F. Kerry, have asked the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to approve a groundbreaking proposal from the University of Massachusetts Amherst to manufacture marijuana for FDA- approved medical marijuana research.
At present, all U.S. medical marijuana researchers are required to obtain marijuana for medical studies from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. NIDA's marijuana, grown on a farm in Mississippi, has been criticized for its poor quality, and many observers have complained that NIDA has made it unnecessarily difficult to obtain marijuana for research, impeding studies that could document medical benefits.
In an Oct. 20 letter to DEA Administrator Karen Tandy,
Sens. Kennedy and Kerry criticized NIDA's "unjustified monopoly on the production of marijuana for legitimate medical research." They noted, "Federal law makes clear that the ... bulk manufacture of Schedule I and II substances must be provided `under adequately competitive conditions.' ... The current lack of such competition may well result in the production of lower-quality research-grade marijuana, which in turn jeopardizes important research."
Kerry is considered one of the leading contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination.
"Senators Kerry and Kennedy are absolutely right," said Steve Fox, director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C. "The DEA is legally bound to grant this application. We expect that this will finally put an end to the DEA's infuriating practice of single-handedly blocking effective research on the therapeutic benefits of marijuana while claiming, with no sense of irony, that marijuana is not a medicine because no research proves that it has medicinal value."
In a study of patients receiving government-grown medical marijuana published last year, neurologist Ethan Russo described the NIDA marijuana as "a crude, low-grade product." An article in the Jan. 24, 2003, San Mateo County Times quoted doctors, patients, and local officials who complained that the low quality of NIDA's marijuana was driving patients out of a county-supported medical marijuana trial being conducted at the San Mateo Medical Center.