Governors Ask U.S. to Ease Rules on Marijuana

The governors of Washington and 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.

The move by the governors — Christine Gregoire of Washington, a Democrat, and Lincoln D. Chafee of Rhode Island, an independent who used to be a Republican — injected new political muscle into the debate on the status of marijuana, which has been raging for decades. Their states are among the 16 that now allow medical marijuana, but which have seen efforts to grow and distribute the drug targeted by federal prosecutors.

“The divergence in state and federal law creates a situation where there is no regulated and safe system to supply legitimate patients who may need medical cannabis,” the governors wrote Wednesday to Michele M. Leonhart, the administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Marijuana is currently classified by the federal government as a Schedule I controlled substance, the same category as heroin and L.S.D. Drugs with that classification, the government says, have a high potential for abuse and “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.”

The governors want marijuana reclassified as a Schedule II controlled substance, which would put it in the same category as drugs like cocaine, opium and morphine. The federal government says that those drugs have a strong potential for abuse and addiction, but that they also have “some accepted medical use and may be prescribed, administered, or dispensed for medical use.”

Such a classification would allow pharmacies to dispense marijuana, in addition to the marijuana dispensaries that currently operate in a murky legal zone in many states.

“What we have out here on the ground is chaos,” Governor Gregoire said in a telephone interview. “And in the midst of all the chaos we have patients who really either feel like they’re criminals or may be engaged in some criminal activity, and really are legitimate patients who want medicinal marijuana.

“If our people really want medicinal marijuana, then we need to do it right, we need to do it with safety, we need to do it with health in mind, and that’s best done in a process that we know works in this country — and that’s through a pharmacist.”

The state of Washington approved medical marijuana in 1998, with a ballot question that won 60 percent of the vote. But like many states, Washington soon found itself in a legal gray area. The Legislature tried to clarify things last spring, when it passed a law that would have explicitly legalized, regulated and licensed marijuana dispensaries and growers.

But the Justice Department warned the governor that growing and distributing marijuana was still against federal law, and said that “state employees who conducted activities mandated by the Washington legislative proposals would not be immune from liability.” Ms. Gregoire, while sympathetic to the goals of the bill, wound up vetoing much of it.

It was similar on the other side of the country, where Rhode Island had passed a law authorizing state-regulated marijuana dispensaries. This fall Governor Chafee announced that he could not go ahead with the plan because federal prosecutors had warned him that the dispensaries could be the targets of prosecution.

On Wednesday Mr. Chafee said that reclassifying the drug could help many people. “Patients across Rhode Island and across the United States, many of whom are in tremendous pain, stand to experience some relief,” he said in a statement.

Other groups have sought reclassification of marijuana in the past, and as recently as this past June the Drug Enforcement Administration denied a petition to do so, based on a review conducted several years earlier. But Ms. Gregoire and Mr. Chafee said the attitude of the medical community had changed since the federal government last reviewed the issue.

In 2009 the American Medical Association changed its position and called for reviewing the classification of marijuana, saying that the current classification was limiting clinical research.

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?”

– Article from The New York Times.

Comments

4 Comments

  1. Anonymous on

    Pres. Obama, for whom I voted, really wimped out on this issue.

    The Fed govt. continues to lose credibility as a result of their idiotic and bullying ways.

  2. Anonymous on

    The word “currently” in the schedule is a catch 22 and therefore unconstitutional. How could a drug have a currently accepted medical use when the UN declared it prohibited worldwide? The fact that it has no current medical use is directly attributable to the government’s own arbitrary actions, not a lack of desire on doctors’ part to prescribe it. Since it was prescribed by doctors in America’s past, prior to the vicious vendetta against it by a few miscreants, it is logical to assume that it would keep being prescribed to this very day, considering that MORE medical uses have been discovered for it since Eli Lilly started selling it as an antispasmotic. I can’t believe that nobody has had the “currently accepted” part of that schedule ruled as legally unjust yet. That leaves Cannabis as NEVER being able to be used as a medicine, according to the wording of the schedule. If they discovered tomorrow that Cannabis cures cancer 100% of the time, you still wouldn’t be able to sell it. How is that in the best interest of society, exactly? The CDSA wasn’t even written until decades after Cannabis was rendered unprescribable by unjust US and international regulations.

  3. Anonymous on

    “Eli Lilly and Company has been in business more than 132 years. The global, research-based company was founded in May 1876 by Colonel Eli Lilly in Indianapolis, Ind., in the Midwestern section of the United States. A 38-year-old pharmaceutical chemist and a veteran of the U.S. Civil War, Colonel Lilly was frustrated by the poorly prepared, often ineffective medicines of his day. Consequently, he made these commitments to himself and to society:

    He would found a company that manufactured pharmaceutical products of the highest possible quality.
    His company would develop only medicines that would be dispensed at the suggestion of physicians rather than by eloquent sideshow hucksters
    Lilly pharmaceuticals would be based on the best science of the day.”

    lilly.com/about/Pages/history.aspx

    Also, here’s bunch of prescriptions for Cannabis written by doctors before the government threatened to suspend their licenses if they did so antiquecannabisbook.com/chap16/Prescription.htm

  4. Anonymous on

    Somebody should have told Eli Lilly that Cannabis has no accepted medical use, because they seem to think it is an antispasmotic, sedative and narcotic. Narcosis simply means a state of stupor. Doesn’t mean addictive or necessarily harmful. So when exactly did Cannabis suddenly stop being and antispasmotic and sedative? Would it be before or after the Anslinger and Nixon eras, when the world was fed a propaganda campaign to make it think cannabis was exactly like cocaine? We all saw the film clip of the guy maniacally banging at a piano with a wild look in his eye. He was clearly on coke, not weed. If he was on weed he would have been cranking out a nice boogie number. The DEA can tell us all day that Cannabis has no medical use, but Eli Lilly said otherwise and I tend to believe a respected pharmaceutical company over the DEA. I have a funny feeling they know a little more about drugs than a bunch of pencil pushers in Washington. To justify Cannabis being in schedule 1 they would have to hunt down every existing Cannabis tincture bottle and destroy it. They missed this one antiquecannabisbook.com/chap4/eliLilly2.htm