Two governors have petitioned the federal government to reschedule cannabis this week. Governors Christine Gregoire of Washington state and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island requested that marijuana be reclassified as a Schedule II drug (like cocaine, opium, and morphine). Marijuana has been a Schedule I narcotic (a category reserved for drugs with no accepted medical use) since the creation of the Controlled Substances Act.
Both Washington state and Rhode Island have legalized the use of medical marijuana. However, with the federal government cracking down on medicinal cannabis and threatening to prosecute state employees who help facilitate dispensary systems, many governors of MMJ states have gotten cold feet.
Cynics might see the governors’ petition as a stall tactic similar to Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s suit asking for a judgment on state official’s risk of prosecution, which also delayed the implementation of a state dispensary system. Of particular note is the fact that the feds just rejected a petition to reschedule cannabis this summer (a decision that came nine years after the petition was filed).
However, it is hard to fault the governors for wanting state law to comply with (or at least vaguely comport with) federal law. What’s more, Governor Gregoire’s message – “People die from overdose of opiates … has anybody died from marijuana?” – is an admirable (and accurate) assessment of the situation. Let’s just hope that the governors desire for federal enlightenment won’t hold up the will of the voters.