Two governors of medical marijuana states, Gov. Lincoln Chafee (I) and Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire (D) Wednesday called on the federal government to reschedule marijuana. In a joint 106-page petition to DEA head Michele Leonhart, they said marijuana needs to be classified as a drug with accepted medical uses so that states that have passed medical marijuana laws can regulate its distribution without fear of federal prosecution. They seem to want to get the word out too — at the time of this writing, both governors’ home pages link to press releases about the petition.
The two governors speak from personal experience. Chafee brought his state’s plan to open distribution centers to a screeching halt in September, citing fears the state-regulated dispensaries would become the targets of federal enforcement actions. And this spring, Gregoire vetoed key portions of a bill that would have set up a regulated dispensary system in Washington for similar reasons.
The governors asked the DEA to move marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, which is reserved for drugs with no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse, to Schedule II, which includes drugs with a high potential for abuse, but with accepted medical uses. If moved to Schedule II, marijuana would be grouped with opioid pain relievers such as morphine, Dilaudid, and Fentanyl; prescription amphetamines and methamphetamines, such as Dexedrine and Desoxyn; barbiturates, and cocaine.
Moving marijuana to Schedule II would allow it to be prescribed by doctors (medical marijuana states currently have laws specifying a doctor’s recommendation — not a prescription — to get around DEA threats to doctors who would prescribe medical marijuana) and stocked in pharmacies, as well as sold in dispensaries, as it currently is.
The federal government has repeatedly refused to reschedule marijuana over the past 20 years. Most recently, in July, the DEA denied a rescheduling petition brought by the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis. That denial is being appealed.
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Contributed by Phillip Smith of StoptheDrugWar.org.