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Two Governors Call on DEA to Reclassify Marijuana for Medical Use [FEATURE]

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #711)
Drug War Issues

Two governors of medical marijuana states, Gov. Lincoln Chafee (I) and Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire (D) Wednesday called on the federal government to reschedule marijuana. In a joint 106-page petition to DEA head Michele Leonhart, they said marijuana needs to be classified as a drug with accepted medical uses so that states that have passed medical marijuana laws can regulate its distribution without fear of federal prosecution. They seem to want to get the word out too -- at the time of this writing, both governors' home pages link to press releases about the petition.

Gov. Gregoire's press release about the petition
The two governors speak from personal experience. Chafee brought his state's plan to open distribution centers to a screeching halt in September, citing fears the state-regulated dispensaries would become the targets of federal enforcement actions. And this spring, Gregoire vetoed key portions of a bill that would have set up a regulated dispensary system in Washington for similar reasons.

The governors asked the DEA to move marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, which is reserved for drugs with no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse, to Schedule II, which includes drugs with a high potential for abuse, but with accepted medical uses. If moved to Schedule II, marijuana would be grouped with opioid pain relievers such as morphine, Dilaudid, and Fentanyl; prescription amphetamines and methamphetamines, such as Dexedrine and Desoxyn; barbiturates, and cocaine.

Moving marijuana to Schedule II would allow it to be prescribed by doctors (medical marijuana states currently have laws specifying a doctor's recommendation -- not a prescription -- to get around DEA threats to doctors who would prescribe medical marijuana) and stocked in pharmacies, as well as sold in dispensaries, as it currently is.

The federal government has repeatedly refused to reschedule marijuana over the past 20 years. Most recently, in July, the DEA denied a rescheduling petition brought by the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis. That denial is being appealed.

In denying the petition, the DEA steadfastly maintained that: "Marijuana continues to meet the criteria for Schedule I control under the CSA because marijuana has a high potential for abuse, marijuana has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and marijuana lacks accepted safety for use under medical supervision."

It is time for the DEA and the Food and Drug Administration to change their tunes, the governors said. "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," they told Leonhart.

Gov. Chafee's home page, featuring the petition
Their petition includes a substantive science-based report that has been peer reviewed and cites more than 700 independent references, many of which are new science since 2006. It details non-smoking methods, and describes how recent scientific developments like affordable DNA analysis supports the pharmacy model. With modern DNA analysis, the plant's beneficial compounds can be determined, and with current technology readily available today, a compounding pharmacist could easily and inexpensively quantify the levels of cannabinoids, and then use the appropriate cannabis blend to create a customized medication for an individual patient.

"Poll after poll shows an overwhelming majority of Americans now see medical marijuana as legitimate," Gregoire said. "Sixty percent of voters in our state said yes on a 1998 ballot measure. An ever-growing number of doctors now tell thousands of suffering patients they may find relief from the unique medicinal qualities of cannabis. There is simply no question that pharmacists could safely and reliably dispense cannabis to patients -- just as they do for other controlled and more problematic drugs."

"Americans' attitudes toward medically prescribed marijuana are changing, and medical organizations throughout the country -- including the Rhode Island Medical Society and the American Medical Association -- have come to recognize the potential benefits of marijuana for medical use," Gov. Chafee said. "Patients across Rhode Island and across the United States, many of whom are in tremendous pain, stand to experience some relief. Gov. Gregoire and I are taking this step to urge the federal government to consider allowing the safe, reliable, regulated use of marijuana for patients who are suffering."

"Sadly, patients must find their way along unfamiliar, uncertain paths to get what their doctors tell them would help -- medical cannabis to relieve their suffering," Gregoire said. "People weak and sick with cancer, multiple sclerosis, and other diseases and conditions suddenly feel like -- or in fact become -- law breakers. In the year 2011, why can't medical cannabis be prescribed by a physician and filled at the drug store just like any other medication? The answer is surprisingly simple. It can. But only if the federal government stops classifying marijuana as unsuitable for medical treatment."

Gregoire added that two years ago, the American Medical Association reversed its position and now supports investigation and clinical research of cannabis for medicinal use. And The American College of Physicians recently expressed similar support. Both the Washington State Medical Association and the Washington State Pharmacy support reclassification, as do the Rhode Island Medical Society and other state medical associations.

"Mendo Purp" medical marijuana (image courtesy Coaster420 via
Medical marijuana advocates reacted with elation to the governors' petition.But they also pointed out that we still have a long way to go.

"This is groundbreaking," said Kris Hermes, spokesman for Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the country's largest medical marijuana advocacy group. "To have two governors in a bipartisan move from states on opposite sides of the country with medical marijuana laws that are in jeopardy because of federal actions announcing that they want to see the federal government reclassify marijuana is a big deal indeed."

But it doesn't mean it's okay for them to hold up their own state medical marijuana programs, said Drug Policy Alliance head Ethan Nadelmann. "The governors' call for rescheduling marijuana so that it can be prescribed for medical purposes is an important step forward in challenging the federal government's intransigence in this area,"  said Nadelmann. "But their call should not serve as an excuse for these two governors to fail to move forward on responsible regulation of medical marijuana in their own states. Governors in states ranging from New Jersey and Vermont to Colorado and New Mexico have not allowed the federal government’s ban on medical marijuana to prevent them from approving and implementing statewide regulation of medical marijuana. Govs. Gregoire and Chafee should do likewise."

Similarly, the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) also had a "mixed reaction" to the news, chiding the governors for not standing up more forcefully for patients.

"This is a good first step, in that it shows that politicians are catching up with the scientific consensus, which is that marijuana has medical value,” said Rob Kampia, MPP executive director. “If it succeeds, federal law will finally acknowledge that fact. Rescheduling marijuana, however, will not change the federal penalties for possessing, cultivating, or distributing medical marijuana. That is the change we really need. These governors should be insisting that the federal government allow them to run their medical marijuana operations the ways they see fit, which in these cases includes allowing regulated distribution centers to provide patients with safe access to their medicine and not force them to turn to illicit dealers.”

ASA is part of the coalition that is appealing the DEA decision in July not to reschedule marijuana. "This is something we're currently embroiled in, and we will continue to fight vigorously for the federal government to reschedule marijuana on our end and the governors' end as well," Hermes said.

"We applaud the leadership of the governors in urging the Obama administration to reclassify," he reiterated. "With the help of these governors and hopefully more, it's only a matter of time until marijuana is rescheduled."

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


malcolmkyle (not verified)



Federal researchers implanted several types of cancer, including leukemia and lung cancers, in mice, then treated them with cannabinoids (unique, active components found in marijuana). THC and other cannabinoids shrank tumors and increased the mice's lifespans. Munson, AE et al. Antineoplastic Activity of Cannabinoids. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Sept. 1975. p. 597-602.


In a 1994 study the government tried to suppress, federal researchers gave mice and rats massive doses of THC, looking for cancers or other signs of toxicity. The rodents given THC lived longer and had fewer cancers, "in a dose-dependent manner" (i.e. the more THC they got, the fewer tumors). NTP Technical Report On The Toxicology And Carcinogenesis Studies Of 1-Trans- Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol, CAS No. 1972-08-3, In F344/N Rats And B6C3F Mice, Gavage Studies. See also, "Medical Marijuana: Unpublished Federal Study Found THC-Treated Rats Lived Longer, Had Less Cancer," AIDS Treatment News no. 263, Jan. 17, 1997.


Researchers at the Kaiser-Permanente HMO, funded by NIDA, followed 65,000 patients for nearly a decade, comparing cancer rates among non-smokers, tobacco smokers, and marijuana smokers. Tobacco smokers had massively higher rates of lung cancer and other cancers. Marijuana smokers who didn't also use tobacco had no increase in risk of tobacco-related cancers or of cancer risk overall. In fact their rates of lung and most other cancers were slightly lower than non-smokers, though the difference did not reach statistical significance. Sidney, S. et al. Marijuana Use and Cancer Incidence (California, United States). Cancer Causes and Control. Vol. 8. Sept. 1997, p. 722-728.


Donald Tashkin, a UCLA researcher whose work is funded by NIDA, did a case-control study comparing 1,200 patients with lung, head and neck cancers to a matched group with no cancer. Even the heaviest marijuana smokers had no increased risk of cancer, and had somewhat lower cancer risk than non-smokers (tobacco smokers had a 20-fold increased Lung Cancer risk). Tashkin D. Marijuana Use and Lung Cancer: Results of a Case-Control Study. American Thoracic Society International Conference. May 23, 2006.

Thu, 12/01/2011 - 10:05am Permalink
Carl Olsen (not verified)

So, here we have two states with controlled substances acts identical to the federal controlled substances act and both of those states have marijuana classified as state schedule I (with no accepted medical use in treatment in the United States).  How does that work?  Can the state say it has no medical use in the United States under state law, but somehow it does under federal law?  This is garbage.  People of Washington and Rhode Island, WAKE UP!

Thu, 12/01/2011 - 11:11am Permalink
Mike D (not verified)

Why does the United States of America own patents via Department of Heath and Human resources for Delta9  that show the benefits if there is no "medical use"? Plainly stated benefits are locked up(patent wise) for 'artificially made' active psychotropic constituent to the leafy material.



Thu, 12/01/2011 - 11:52am Permalink
Jeff Brown (not verified)

These governors need to immediately reschedule or deschedule marijuana in their own  states to set an example for the rest of the states and the federal government. 

Thu, 12/01/2011 - 2:39pm Permalink
Jeff Brown (not verified)

Its nice to see that a couple of state governors are growing a pair. Where are all the other governors and state attorney generals in the other medical marijuana states.? They still seem to be missing the boat. Once a state says it has medical use then it has medical use in the United States. All the governors should be demanding that the DEA remove cannabis from schedule I. The DEA is famous for stalling for years. Even if they hold hearings it will drag out and the patients will suffer. 

Thu, 12/01/2011 - 3:30pm Permalink
Mr. Herb (not verified)

This has never been about drugs.  It has always been about money, first with the outlawing of hemp in 1937 to eliminate hemp fibers from the marketplace for William Randolph Hearst and Ed DuPont.  Hearst was growing pine trees to make newspapers with and DuPont got a patent in 1929 to produce nylon fibers from oil.  They just didn't want to compete fairly with hemp fibers.  Then the so-called war on drugs turned into a multi-billion dollar industry that not only fleeces poor people but disenfranchises liberal voters at the same time.  So forget referendums and nice letters to the DEA asking them to do the right thing.  We need to all take a step back and look at the big picture.

First, the government isn't waging war on drugs - they are waging war on the American people.  In a war, the opposing forces are referred to as "enemies".  Anytime a legislative body passes a bill to fund the "war on drugs" they are giving aid and comfort to America's enemies.  The Constitution defines this as "Treason" and goes on the define treason as a capitol offense.  The law is now on our side.  All we need is one federal judge with brains enough to know what is right and balls enough to do it.  We need an arrest warrant charging Michele Leonhart with treason and conspiracy.  I don't care if the judge spanks her hand and sends her home with a note to her mother, the conviction will give us the precedent we need to end prohibition in America once and for all.  And it can be done in a non-violent way and in accordance with the law.

This is not about people being high - it's about people being free.  No nation is free so long as its government wages war on its citizens.  When marijuana is free, America will be free.  

Thu, 12/01/2011 - 4:15pm Permalink
DaveMan50 (not verified)

In reply to by Mr. Herb (not verified)

All we need is one Federal Judge with Brains and balls? Sounds like a long shot to me!

Fri, 12/02/2011 - 12:22am Permalink
joebanana (not verified)

With the ONDCP using public funds to print and distribute deliberately false and misleading information, and the DEA deliberately mis-classifying it (because their FDA has it's head up it's ass), to increase criminal punishment under false pretenses, when there's overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The Chinese used the herb for medicinal purposes for 2000 years. It was used in the USA for medicinal purposes before it was wrongfully outlawed, again under false pretenses. The war on drugs is treason, when the first person was killed for drug offenses, war was declared on the American people by the government. There is no amendment giving the feds the power to outlaw a flower, any powers they have are privileges from WE THE PEOPLE, seeing that they get their just powers from the governed. And the quote that "marijuana has no currently accepted medical use" is a blatant lie. Study after study proves this to be false. "Has a great potential for abuse", so does lying. And "lacks accepted safety for use under medical supervision". WTF does this asshat mean by that? What is "accepted safety"? The approval of the FDA? Is that "accepted safety"? the agency that approves drugs that kill people, and have to be recalled? That "accepted safety"? Where does this retard get his information?

Thu, 12/01/2011 - 5:51pm Permalink
Charles Patric… (not verified)

This is good but we need more.We cannot count on our congres because so many of them are being nribed and or payed off by the pharmacutical lobby as is the senate as well.People do not understand that legalisation go's way beyond simply making it legal to use it.The economical ramifications are insanely huge.It would benefet the government and the states financially in a very major way.It would also draw many away from using alcagol to ising it instead.It would also farw a lot of people from using the really bad drugs out there.These are all god incentivesLegalisation would also make a juge dro in drug related crimes as well as in the numbers of teens using it.Every country that has legalised for adults have all had these positive aspects so it only stands to reason that we would as well.It would also stop the mexican drug cartels from doing buisness with us for the most part which is another good thing.This is something we need to push and push hard as we can no matter what it takes

Thu, 12/01/2011 - 8:14pm Permalink
DaveMan50 (not verified)

You hit it with "payed off by the pharmaceutical LOBBY!!!  Hello, folks doesn't make sence to abolish Lobbying?

Fri, 12/02/2011 - 12:28am Permalink
Carmen Brown (not verified)

I'd love to see Jerry Brown add his name with the two signatories. The two governors deserve standing ovations. Two state executives asking the DEA to reschedule is huge. The drug war cannot stand against this petition. Jerry Brown doesn't even need to add his name. The big state and the small state, Pacific and Atlantic, the nation cries out, one-two punch, delivered. Now brace yourself. Never before has this happened.

If by some blip of history, a state governor has ever before asked the DEA to reschedule marijuana, there is no way that the argument made then could be as compelling, with as much authoritative science, as an argument made today. Added to this modern power is a mature ground swell of supportive, national public opinion. 

The tide is sweeping.

Remember when long ago you heard former politicians calling for rescheduling or legalization. Always former. They had to be former politicians. 'Former mayor says legalize'. 'Former duke of some town in Germany says legalize.' It was always disappointing when the mayor officiated over a missing dot on the map. And then, isn’t Germany a republic? The page four news always felt like a political drop in a dry bucket; rarely an echo back. 

"Today's weather calls for a tsunami and light showers". 

Sitting politicians in other nations are leading the charge out of the closet. Leaders at all levels, including heads of state, are calling for legalization outright. If they can't get legalization they want the debate door open. Some presidents in South America realize the coming harm is greater than the coming good. Ground zero of the drug war is not a pretty place to be . They are breaking stride with the United States. Willing to endure strains of political fallout, they turn away from the world’s biggest drug warrior, to look for a peaceful solution. Bravo!

The long disappointing days of former politicians appealing into the dark has grown up a whole big lot of people who want the drug war to end. They tend to share a growing feeling that the glimmers of light in the sky mean that the sun is about to rise. Among the field of formers are seats of honor for employed politicians. The latest club chair is taken with not one, but two sitting governors. Bring in an extra chair! Set 'em up some shade.  

Pushing medical science on the DEA won't be an easy task. As we have seen, rescheduling petitions for non-governors can take up to 20+ years.

The governors' petition is as important symbolically as it is legally. It is symbolically important because our nation's drug war is based on a rhetorical illusion. When the terrible illusion has no serious detractors it can stand against reason and facts. The 106 page petition is like flipping on the light switch. The DEA does not want to contend with the argument: a decades old pillar of the drug war causes needless and direct harm, spoken by two of the very people who are "supposed to" help support the pillar and promote the war. 

Whether they win or lose legally is no matter for the long term. These two governors have helped fractured an idea, the monolithic hubris of our drug war; assuming they don't back down. If they back down, then the drowned idea of a harmless drug war could resurface.  

Today the two great governors are standing on the shoulders of giants. The wind may blow and people will have their say so. But many people have taken up this cross. Today there is a wide acre of politicians across the breast of a strong body of reform minded people. Seated politicians take the fore. Get a friend to help. You still can't do it alone. Jerry Brown, we'd love to hear you sent a thank-you letter to these two elder statesmen. 

Fri, 12/02/2011 - 9:00pm Permalink
Realist 101 (not verified)

If we TRULY want to encourage these two OUTSTANDING Governors, we need ALL of us to donate money to their re-election campaigns.
We need to let them know that the reason we're donating to their campaign is because of these petitions.

THAT is the only way that LOTS of other politicians are going to jump in on this. 

Sat, 12/03/2011 - 11:17am Permalink
Realist 101 (not verified)

If we TRULY want to encourage these two OUTSTANDING Governors, we need ALL of us to donate money to their re-election campaigns.
We need to let them know that the reason we're donating to their campaign is because of these petitions.

THAT is the only way that LOTS of other politicians are going to jump in on this. 

Sat, 12/03/2011 - 11:21am Permalink
Chris Siciliano (not verified)

In reply to by Fletch C (not verified)

You don't need to sign it.  It was submitted to the DEA and will now need to be accepted so they can turn it over to the HHS. I hope some other States get on board with this. I would like to have seen Governors from all 16 states on this one... but it's a start! 

Sat, 12/10/2011 - 11:19pm Permalink
Brinna (not verified)

Here is a quote from an article I just read with regard to reclassification issues in Hawaii.

Here is one salient paragraph:


The solution to this dilemma is rather straight forward, and involves a two-pronged approach. The first action required is for the State to file a formal application with the DEA, in accordance with 21 CFR 1308.43, to have Cannabis reclassified based on the “currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States” that exists by the very fact that Hawaii has a Medical Marijuana Program. Secondly, the State will also need to file a temporary and permanent injunction in U.S. District Court for the District of Hawai`i, on the same day that the DEA application is faxed and mailed overnight, enjoining any further enforcement of Cannabis as a Schedule I controlled substance while the application with the DEA is pending.



Fri, 12/09/2011 - 3:00am Permalink

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