2 states want US to reclassify marijuana

States-want-to-reclassify-marijuana-I0LJ2FM-x OLYMPIA, Washington – The governors of two U.S. states on Wednesday asked the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to reclassify marijuana as a medical treatment, so doctors can prescribe it and pharmacists can fill the prescription.

Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire and Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee said they want the U.S. government to list marijuana as a Schedule 2 drug. Marijuana is currently classified as a Schedule 1 drug, meaning it's not accepted for medical treatment and can't be prescribed, administered or dispensed.

Washington and Rhode Island are two of 16 states, plus the District of Columbia, that have laws allowing the medical use of marijuana.

The DEA has rejected prior petitions seeking to reclassify marijuana, but Gregoire noted that this is the first petition signed by governors.

"Each of these jurisdictions is struggling with managing safe access to medical cannabis for patients with serious medical conditions," the states' petition and report reads. "Our work with the federal agencies has not resolved the matter."

Gregoire said the conflict between state and federal laws means legitimate patients lack a regulated and safe system to obtain marijuana.

"It is time to show compassion and time to show common sense," she said in a conference call with reporters.

Washington voters approved a medical marijuana law in 1998 that gives doctors the right to recommend — but not prescribe — marijuana for people suffering from cancer and other conditions that cause "intractable pain."

Earlier this year, Gregoire vetoed most of a bill that made major reforms to the state's medical marijuana law, saying state workers could be prosecuted under federal law the way the measure was written.

The legislation was passed to set clearer regulations on medical marijuana use and to establish a licensing system and patient registry to protect qualifying patients, doctors and providers from criminal liability.

A DEA spokeswoman said officials at the agency had heard of the petition but could not comment.

Earlier this month, the DEA raided 10 storefront dispensaries in Washington state, including several in Seattle, where law enforcement officials have taken a lenient view of medical marijuana grows and dispensaries. Search warrant affidavits suggested the shops were fronts for illicit drug dealing and revealed that agents were looking for evidence of drug conspiracies, money laundering and guns. Similar raids occurred in Montana and California as well.

Morgan Fox of the Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project said the petition was a "good first step" but reclassifying the drug will not "change the federal penalties for possessing, cultivating or distributing medical marijuana."

"That is the change we really need," Fox said in a news release.

Gregoire said the science on the issue has changed. The American Medical Association reversed its position two years ago and now supports investigation and clinical research of cannabis for medicinal use.

Gregoire said she was on a phone call in August with other governors in medical marijuana states and said there was a "huge volume" of interest.

Asked why no other governors have signed onto the initial petition, Gregoire said she and Chafee wanted to take the lead.

"I have every expectation that you will see other governors join us," she said.

USA Today

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