Washington & Rhode Island Govs: Reclassify Marijuana

| by ASA

OLYMPIA, WA -- Governors Christine Gregoire (D-WA) and Lincoln Chafee (I-RI) announced at a press conference today that they were jointly filing a federal petition to reclassify marijuana for medical use. Under the Controlled Substances Act, the federal government considers marijuana a Schedule I substance, a dangerous drug with no medical value. The rescheduling petition filed by Governors Gregoire and Chafee comes after their administrations were sent letters threatening medical marijuana producers and distributors and the implementation of state laws. In April, Governor Gregoire vetoed sections of a bill that would have permitted dispensaries in Washington because of federal threats, and in September, Governor Chafee suspended implementation of Rhode Island's dispensary licensing law.

At today's press conference, Governor Gregoire said, "Many medical marijuana patients are too sick to grow their own," but also said that "there is still not clear and safe access." Gregoire also stressed that patients "often feel like law-breakers." In the rescheduling petition, the governors cite as many as 700 peer-reviewed research studies and reports on medical marijuana, and according to Gregoire asked for public hearings "so that the government can hear from doctors and scientists."

"It is time to show compassion and common sense," said Gregoire. "The people getting hurt in all of this are patients," continued Gregoire. "They have a prescription from a doctor but they can't get it filled." Governor Chafee called today's filing a "bi-coastal, bipartisan effort." Gregoire and Chafee have also briefed other governors on their strategy and urged them to join the petition. The governors seemed confident more would come on board.

"We strongly applaud the leadership of Governors Gregoire and Chafee in urging the Obama Administration to reclassify medical marijuana," said ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer. "With the help of these governors, and likely others, it is only a matter of time before marijuana is rescheduled for medical use," continued Sherer. "We look forward to a time when patients do not have to live in fear." Meanwhile, advocates are encouraging the States of Washington and Rhode Island to join other states in implementing production and distribution programs for their patients.

The Gregoire/Chafee rescheduling petition also follows a similar petition was denied by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in July of this year. Americans for Safe Access, in collaboration with the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis (CRC), has appealed the federal government's denial and the case is currently pending in the D.C. Circuit. The CRC filed its petition in 2002 and had not received a response until ASA sued the Obama Administration for unreasonable delay. Less than two months later, the DEA denied the petition.