Governors Petition DEA to Reclassify Marijuana

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In the continuing trend to decriminalize marijuana for medical use, two Governors have added their names to a petition to change the federal classification of marijuana.

Currently, marijuana is a Schedule I drug, putting it in the same class as LSD or heroin. This results in a conflict between federal law and state laws, where marijuana is allowed under special, state-level prescriptions or with a medical marijuana card. The conflict has led to arrests by federal agents for activities that a state deems legal.

Last week, the Governor of Washington and the Governor of Rhode Island petitioned the DEA to consider changing the federal rules so that marijuana might be sold legally. This doesn’t mean a complete relaxation of the regulations. If accepted, marijuana would still be restricted – as much as morphine or other narcotics. But, it would prevent arrest and prosecution of those following the proper procedures.

Enforcement at the state level would continue as is. Since possession, distribution or sale of marijuana is illegal outside of legitimate medical authority, this would stay the same.

According to news reports, the petition reads, in part:
"Each of these jurisdictions is struggling with managing safe access to medical cannabis for patients with serious medical conditions. Our work with the federal agencies has not resolved the matter."

The jurisdictions referred to include not only Washington and Rhode Island, but the 14 other states where medical marijuana laws have been passed. Interestingly, the District of Columbia, where Congress and the FDA reside, has a medical marijuana program.

One of the major concerns is that there exists no legal supply chain for medical marijuana. Since interstate commerce is regulated at the federal level, no state can import the drug and growing it is also a crime under federal enforcement standards. Without a legitimate supply, standards on strength and quality cannot be set.

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