Medical Marijuana Reclassification Sought by WA and RI Governors

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Protestors at a DEA raid on a medical marijuana dispensary in Los Angeles, CA
Source: Robyn Beck, Getty Images, July 25, 2007

The governors of Washington and Rhode Island petitioned the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to reclassify marijuana from the most restrictive Schedule I category to a Schedule II substance, which if approved, could lead to pharmacies dispensing marijuana. The 106-page petition, filed Nov. 30, 2011 by Democratic Governor Christine Gregoire of Washington and independent Governor Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, declares that the Schedule I classification of cannabis is “fundamentally wrong and should be changed.”

Washington and Rhode Island are among the 16 states (and the District of Columbia) that have enacted laws to legalize medical marijuana.

Governor Gregoire explained the reasoning for the new petition in an interview, “What we have out here on the ground is chaos. 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.”

Schedule I controlled substances, including marijuana and LSD, are defined by the DEA as having “no currently accepted medical use,” “a high potential for abuse,” and a “lack of accepted safety” when used under medical supervision. Schedule II controlled substances, such as methadone and OxyContin, have accepted medical use but are also considered to “have a high potential for abuse which may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.”

The Christian Science Monitor issued an editorial stating, “the real issue isn’t whether the medical use of pot makes sense (especially when smoked). Instead, governors should simply uphold federal law – and Obama administration policy – that finds marijuana has too many adverse effects. States should not be frustrating federal law by playing into the hands of the pro-pot legalization campaign.”

On June 21, 2011, the DEA denied an Oct. 9, 2002 petition by the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis to initiate proceedings to reschedule marijuana.


“Gov. Lincoln Chafee Chooses Feds Over Patients ,”, Sep. 30, 2011

Michael Cooper, “2 Governors Asking US to Ease Rules on Marijuana to Allow for Its Medical Use,” New York Times, Nov. 30, 2011

W. Zachary Malinowski, “Update: Chafee Puts End to Medical Marijuana Dispensaries,” Providence Journal, Sep. 29, 2011