Wash., RI, Vt. governors petition feds to reclassify marijuana

J. Arthur Bloom Deputy Editor
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Democratic Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire and Independent Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee have filed a petition with the Drug Enforcement Agency asking for a reclassification of marijuana — from a substance with “no currently accepted medical use” to a drug with “currently accepted medical use in treatment.” On Thursday, Democratic Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin joined them.

“It is time to show compassion and time to show common sense,” Gregoire told reporters during a conference call.

The three governors’ states, and thirteen others, have passed medical marijuana laws, casting doubt on the idea that cannabis has no medical value. And some studies suggest that the analgesic effects of marijuana are comparable to those of more addictive painkillers.

The governors’ petition is the latest in an ongoing fight to reclassify cannabis that dates back to a legal challenge in 1972.

“Each of these jurisdictions is struggling with managing safe access to medical cannabis for patients with serious medical conditions,” they wrote. “Our work with the federal agencies has not resolved the matter.”

The DEA has historically ignored petitions for rescheduling marijuana, citing a scientific consensus that it serves no purpose in treating patients of any kind. But that consensus appears to be fracturing in the face of new scientific studies and concerns about the ongoing costs of the drug war.

Drug Policy Alliance President Ethan Nadelmann wrote in a statement that the Governors’ petition was a helpful step, but that federal regulations shouldn’t stop them from moving forward with therapeutic pot programs in their own states.

“Their call should not serve as an excuse for these two governors to fail to move forward on responsible regulation of medical marijuana in their own states,” Nadelmann said.  “Governors in states ranging from New Jersey and Vermont to Colorado and New Mexico have not allowed the federal government’s ban on medical marijuana to prevent them from approving and implementing statewide regulation of medical marijuana.”

National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws executive director Allen St. Pierre told The Daily Caller in an email that, “this is a positive development because in 1972, when we launched NORML vs. DEA, the nub of that case was to do nothing more than to reschedule marijuana from Schedule 1, which only heroin and LSD are in, and get it to Schedule 2, where cocaine, oxycontin, percocet, vicodin, etc are in.”

“These governors, in doing this petition, are really doing nothing more than agreeing with NORML’s basic premise in 1972 that marijuana is clearly a safe and effective medicine that can be a Schedule 2 drug with Percocet, with Vicodin, with ketamine, et cetera,” St. Pierre added.

Though other governors have yet to sign on, many share the frustrations of Vermont, Rhode Island and Washington with the systemic disconnect between state and federal marijuana laws.

“I have every expectation that you will see other governors join us,” Gregoire told Fox News.

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