The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is a membership-based, IRS-approved 501(c)(3) non-profit research and educational organization working to develop psychedelics and marijuana into legal prescription drugs. MAPS was founded in 1986 by Rick Doblin, who currently serves as Executive Director, and has recently moved from its previous location in Sarasota, Florida to its new offices in Santa Cruz, California.
MAPS helps scientists design, fund, and obtain regulatory approval for studies of the safety and effectiveness of a number of currently illegal substances. MAPS works closely with government regulatory authorities worldwide such as the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMEA) to ensure that all of its sponsored research protocols conform to ethical and procedural guidelines for clinical drug research. Included in MAPS’ research efforts are MDMA (Ecstasy) for the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), LSD and psilocybin for the treatment of anxiety and depression associated with end-of-life issues, ibogaine for the treatment of opiate addiction, and alternative delivery systems for medical marijuana such as vaporizers and water pipes. MAPS’ ultimate goal is to establish a network of clinics where these and other treatments can be provided together with other therapies under the guidance of licensed physicians and therapists.
In addition to its sponsorship of scientific research, MAPS organizes continuing medical education (CME) conferences, sponsors and gives lectures and seminars on the current state of psychedelic and medical marijuana research, participates in community events like music festivals and Burning Man, and publishes a quarterly Bulletin with updates about its ongoing research efforts, legal struggles, and educational initiatives. MAPS has also published a number of books dealing with the history and culture of psychedelic medicine and psychedelic therapy.
Since 1995, MAPS has disbursed over three million dollars to research and educational projects and has:
Currently, MAPS has been given a Schedule I license to conduct research with MDMA on veterans and survivors of physical or sexual assault who are suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, as well as with advanced-stage cancer patients who are experiencing anxiety associated with this diagnosis, the first licenses the DEA has granted for MDMA psychotherapy research.
A clinical study of these treatment of cluster headaches using low doses of the tryptamine psilocybin (found in psilocybe mushrooms) is being developed by researchers at Harvard Medical School, McLean Hospital in conjunction with MAPS.
NIDA has a government granted monopoly on the production of medical marijuana for research purposes. In the past, the institute has refused to supply marijuana to researchers who had obtained all other necessary federal permits. Medical marijuana researchers and activists claim that NIDA, which is not supposed to be a regulatory organization, does not have the authority to effectively regulate who does and doesn't get to do research with medical marijuana. Jag Davies of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) writes in MAPS Bulletin:
Currently, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has a monopoly on the supply of research-grade marijuana, but no other Schedule I drug, that can be used in FDA-approved research. NIDA uses its monopoly power to obstruct research that conflicts with its vested interests. MAPS had two of its FDA-approved medical marijuana protocols rejected by NIDA, preventing the studies from taking place. MAPS has also been trying without success for almost four years to purchase 10 grams of marijuana from NIDA for research into the constituents of the vapor from marijuana vaporizers, a non-smoking drug delivery method that has already been used in one FDA-approved human study.
NIDA administers a contract with the University of Mississippi to grow the nation's only legal cannabis crop for medical and research purposes, including the Compassionate Investigational New Drug program. A Fast Company magazine article pointed out, "Based on the photographic evidence, NIDA's concoction of seeds, stems, and leaves more closely resembles dried cat brier than cannabis". An article in Mother Jones magazine describes their crop as "brown, stems-and-seeds-laden, low-potency pot—what's known on the streets as 'schwag'" United States federal law currently registers cannabis as a Schedule I drug. Medical marijuana researchers typically prefer to use high-potency marijuana, but NIDA's National Advisory Council on Drug Abuse has been reluctant to provide cannabis with high THC levels, citing safety concerns:
Most clinical studies have been conducted using cannabis cigarettes with a potency of 2-4% THC. However, it is anticipated that there will be requests for cannabis cigarettes with a higher potency or with other mixes of cannabinoids. For example, NIDA has received a request for cigarettes with an 8% potency. The subcommittee notes that very little is known about the clinical pharmacology of this higher potency. Thus, while NIDA research has provided a large body of literature related to the clinical pharmacology of cannabis, research is still needed to establish the safety of new dosage forms and new formulations.
Speaking before the National Advisory Council on Drug Abuse, Rob Kampia of the Marijuana Policy Project criticized NIDA for refusing to provide researcher Donald Abrams with marijuana for his studies, stating that "after nine months of delay, Dr. Leshner rejected Dr. Abrams' request for marijuana, on what we believe are political grounds that the FDA-approved protocol is inadequate.
Boston Globe 2006:
Then again, it's not in NIDA's job description-or even, perhaps, in NIDA's interests-to grow a world-class marijuana crop. The institute's director, Nora Volkow, has stressed that it's "not NIDA's mission to study the medicinal use of marijuana or to advocate for the establishment of facilities to support this research." Since NIDA's stated mission "is to lead the Nation in bringing the power of science to bear on drug abuse and addiction," federally supported marijuana research will logically tilt toward the potential harms, not benefits, of cannabis.
In the most recent rejection of medical marijuana by the Federal Government, the DEA denied Professor Craker, Valerie Corral, and MAPS request to end the federal governments monopoly on medical marijuana production and research.
From an ACLU Press Release:
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Bush administration struck a parting shot to legitimate science today as the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) refused to end the unique government monopoly over the supply of marijuana available for Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved research. DEA’s final ruling rejected the formal recommendation of DEA Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Mary Ellen Bittner, issued nearly two years ago following extensive legal hearings.