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Rhode Island, Washington governors encourage marijuana reclassification

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
December 1st, 2011
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Lincoln Chafee and Chris Gregoire, the governors of Rhode Island and Washington have called upon the Drug Enforcement Administration to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II drug. The reclassification would allow it to be dispensed for medicinal use. The announcement is the latest development in a larger struggle to curb the threat of a federal crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Rhode Island and Washington are just two of 16 states that have legalized the use of medical marijuana. However, in recent months both states have faced ramped-up enforcement actions from federal prosecutors.

In California, U.S. attorneys have shuttered multiple state-licensed marijuana dispensaries that had been operating in accordance with local laws and government for as long as 15 years.

"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 in their letter. "State and local governments cannot adopt a regulatory framework to ensure a safe supply is available for - and limited to - legitimate medical use without putting their employees at risk of violating federal law."

The governors wish to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II drug. They want to reclassify marijuana along with cocaine, morphine and opium. These are drugs that have a high potential for abuse and addiction - but can also be dispensed for medical uses. Marijuana is currently classified as Schedule I drug, along with heroin, LSD and mescaline.

Chafee earlier this year declined to move forward with a state medical marijuana law after federal prosecutors said state pot shops would be subject to persecution under federal law.

Such an ill-defined border between state and federal law should not be allowed to continue, the lawmakers wrote in their letter.

"A public rulemaking process would allow all interested parties to contribute their comments and expertise, and provide a full record for decision," the governors concluded.

"These interested parties include patients and medical professionals and the sixteen states and the District of Columbia, or nearly one-third of the nation's population, that have decriminalized limited possession and use of cannabis for serious medical conditions, and at least ten other states are considering similar measures."

Medical marijuana activists on Wednesday lauded the governors' actions, but cautioned that such efforts should not serve as a substitute for advancing medical marijuana laws at the state level.

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