Governors Seek To Allow Medical Marijuana


Governor Chris Gregoire, of Washington, and Governor Lincoln Chafee, of Rhode Island, petitioned the federal government on Wednesday to reclassify marijuana as a drug with accepted medical uses, saying the change is needed so states like theirs, which have decriminalized marijuana for medical purposes, can regulate the safe distribution of the drug without risking federal prosecution.

Gov. Chris Gregoire followed up on an earlier pledge by announcing today that she was asking the federal government to reschedule marijuana to a drug that can be prescribed and sold in pharmacies.

Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, who joined Gregoire on a conference call today, said he will also back the petition to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration to make marijuana a Schedule II drug, which allows for use with “severe restrictions,” putting it in line with such drugs as cocaine, PCP and methadone.

Both of their states are among the 16 that now allow medical marijuana,  which have seen efforts to grow and distribute the drug targeted by federal prosecutors. Currently, the Controlled Substances Act classifies marijuana is Schedule I, with no accepted medical value.  The DEA rejected such an idea as recently as July, turning down a petition first filed in 2002 by a coalition of advocacy groups.

In the response, signed by DEA administrator Michele Leonhart, the DEA says it cannot reschedule marijuana because a “material conflict of opinion among experts precludes a finding that marijuana has been accepted by qualified experts, even under conditions where its use is severely restricted.”

Ms. Gregoire noted that many doctors believe it makes no sense to place marijuana in a more restricted category than opium and morphine. “People die from overdose of opiates,” she said. “Has anybody died from marijuana?”

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