Ole Miss marijuana monopoly under fire

BY ANDY KANENGISER

Daily Journal

OXFORD – University of Mississippi leaders are battling a legal challenge that threatens to end the school's legal monopoly to grow marijuana for research purposes.

“We will not give up without a fight,” said Andy Mullins, executive assistant to Ole Miss Chancellor Robert Khayat. Critics of the Ole Miss research are just trying to get the federal contract, he said Friday.

For 36 years, Ole Miss has been the only school nationwide with the federal government's OK to manufacture marijuana under the supervision of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

But the Washington Post reported this week that some researchers are complaining about the quality of the Ole Miss-produced pot. They want a federal judge to allow others to legally produce pot for research.

During a hearing this week, DEA attorneys defended the marijuana at Ole Miss. Research professor Mahamoud ElSohly, who runs the program, said the marijuana inventory is more than adequate.

A decision on the case before Drug Enforcement Administration Law Judge Mary Ellen Bittner is months away.

Professor: End the monopoly

University of Massachusetts professor Lyle Cracker is part of the group asking the judge to stop the federal government's marijuana monopoly.

“The government's marijuana just isn't strong enough,” said Richard Doblin, a Cracker supporter who directs the Massachusetts-based Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies.

Mullins said the accusations of low-quality marijuana at Ole Miss simply are unfounded.

“We know it is not the case and the federal government knows it is not the case,” he said. “The government is arguing to keep it here.

“We feel like we are doing an excellent job and have a long history of doing an excellent job,” Mullins said when reached by phone at his Oxford office.

The marijuana research program is a key component of the Ole Miss School of Pharmacy. Ole Miss grows the pot on a field west of the main campus. The university uses dedicated scientists with a worldwide reputation, he said.

Retired Ole Miss history professor David Sansing said the Oxford-based university has studied the pharmacology of plants for decades before it was awarded the first marijuana contract about 1970. “Our pharmacy school has always been recognized as a first-rate school,” he said.

It also didn't hurt Ole Miss that the late 1st District U.S. Rep. Jamie Whitten was chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee when federal government grants for research programs were doled out. In the 1970s Whitten “was at the apex of his power at that time,” Sansing said.

Contact Andy Kanengiser at 678-1590 or andy.kanengiser@djournal.com