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February 13, 2007

A Little Known Case

Yesterday, a celebratory press release from an organization relatively few people have ever heard of announced a favorable decision by an unknown DEA Administrative Law Judge named Mary Ellen Bittner in a contentious case that has been dragging on for years. At issue  was whether a University of Massachussetts professor should be permitted to grow cannabis (‘marijuana’) at the behest of a private organization for a straightforward study intended as a first step in exploring its possible use as an FDA approved therapeutic agent. In other words,the need to conform to the provisions of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 had required that the first step of what promises to be an arduous journey be taken within the enemy camp.  

This is not the first time a DEA administrative law judge has made a favorable ruling on behalf of ‘medical marijuana.’ A far more sweeping decision, that cannabis is indeed medicine, had been made by DEA Judge Francis Young in 1988 in response to a NORML petition to reschedule cannabis as permitted by the CSA. He was soon peremptorily overruled by his administrative superior, in accordance with the one-sided provisions of the CSA. In essence,that pair of decisions, soon followed by credible evidence that some frustrated oncologists were recommending use of ‘marijuana’ to their patients is what eventually led to initiatives allowing  the contested medical use now permitted in some states.

Whether Judge Bittner’s decision will be overruled or allowed to stand is now the burning issue for medical marijuana reformers. Past experience, plus the fanatical intransigence of drug war supporters within the federal government, do not auger well. If the current decision is allowed it stand, it could represent a sea change in the direction of American drug policy.

I’m not counting on it...

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at February 13, 2007 03:39 PM