The Drug Enforcement Administration has rejected a petition by a University of Massachusetts-Amherst professor to let him grow marijuana for medical research.
The DEA's Jan. 7 ruling said Lyle Craker, a horticulturist who heads the university's medicinal plant program, failed to demonstrate that the government's longtime monopoly on producing and distributing the drug for medical research was "inadequate."
DEA spokesman Garrison Courtney on Monday confirmed the ruling, but declined further comment.
Craker challenged the government's monopoly on research marijuana. A lab at the University of Mississippi is the government's only marijuana-growing facility.
Craker's suit claimed government-grown marijuana lacks the potency medical researchers need to make important breakthroughs. He also alleged there wasn't enough of the drug freely available for scientists across the country to work with.
The professor has won support from Massachusetts Sens. Edward Kennedy and John Kerry as well as several other members of Congress.
Craker in 2001 submitted an application as a marijuana manufacturer to the DEA.
A federal administrative law judge in 2007 recommended to the DEA that it grant Craker's application to grow marijuana in bulk for use by scientists in Food and Drug Administration-approved research. That nonbinding ruling said the government's supply was inadequate for medical research.
DEA attorneys have defended the government's marijuana, saying its Mississippi growing center provides adequate quality and quantity for legitimate researchers across the country.
Craker has said his case has been hurt by DEA concerns about the drug falling into the hands of students. He said he was confident security measures could be used at UMass to prevent that from happening.
"With one foot out the door, the Bush administration has once again found time to undermine scientific freedom," said Allen Hopper, litigation director of the American Civil Liberties Union Drug Law Reform Project. "In stubbornly retaining the unique government monopoly over the supply of research marijuana over the objections of DEA's own administrative law judge, the Bush administration has effectively blocked the proper regulatory channels that would allow the drug to become a wholly legitimate prescription medication."