WASHINGTON and Rhode Island Govs. Chris Gregoire and Lincoln Chafee have petitioned the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to reclassify marijuana so it can be prescribed and sold in pharmacies.

Anything that moves the medical marijuana issue along and advances public understanding of its therapeutic value is a plus. There was high hope that the Obama administration would reclassify marijuana and provide safe access to qualifying patients across the country. At the very least, the expectation was that the administration would leave 16 medical-marijuana states, including Washington, alone. Instead, the federal government has been a stubborn, unhelpful player

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Gregoire wins points for sticking her neck out. She and Chafee are the first governors to take this step. But she should have done so sooner. Reclassifying would be a big first step, but the federal process could take years. Still, medical marijuana advocates are impressed with the enormous amount of time and effort put into the exhaustive petition.

But why didn’t Gregoire have a petition ready to go last year? Medical-marijuana legislation became the disaster of the 2011 session. The governor was scared off by the federal government into vetoing most of the bill, leaving a confused mess.

It appears the governor was genuinely worried that state workers would get in trouble with the federal government, which bans marijuana. An overreaction. The U.S. Attorney’s Office surely has more important things to focus on.

Washington voters said years ago they wanted patients with AIDS, cancer and similar diseases to have access to cannabis to ease pain and nausea.

As often happens, the initiative was foggy. It did not make clear how patients were supposed to get marijuana.

State Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, attempted to take the mystery out of it with a bill last year to bring the cannabis network into the open. Now, Kohl-Welles is working on a new bill.

The governor should find a way to support the senator, who keeps pushing to bring needed clarity to cities and counties that want to regulate medical-marijuana “access points” and impose sensible zoning around them.

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Source: Editorials | Gov. Gregoire’s federal marijuana petition welcome, if overdue | Seattle Times Newspaper