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Gregoire pushes feds to allow medical marijuana

Gov. Chris Gregoire announced Wednesday she filed a petition with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration asking the agency to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule 2 drug, allowing it to be prescribed by doctors and filled by pharmacists.

Marijuana is currently classified as a Schedule I drug, with no recognized medical value.

In a statement released by the Governor’s office, Gregoire said there is an overwhelming support for the legitimacy of medical marijuana. But as long as marijuana remains a Schedule 1 drug, it won’t be viewed as a legitimate medication.

“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 — lawbreakers. 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.”

Washington is one of 16 states that gives doctors permission to recommend marijuana to patients. Patients with valid documentation from a doctor can possess a 60-day supply of the drug. Ways of procuring a personal supply are vague, and finding pot is left mostly up to the patient.

“Sixty percent of voters in our state said yes on a 1998 ballot measure,” Gregoire said. “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.”

Port Orchard, like many other Washington cities, has a temporary moratorium that prohibits collective gardens, which state law expressly allows patients to operate to grow their own medicinal marijuana. The city has a separate moratorium on dispensaries.

The City Council passed a six-month moratorium in each case to have time to figure out how to regulate dispensaries and collective gardens in a way that complies with both federal and state laws.

“I’m not necessarily opposed to medical marijuana, I just want to protect the city,” Mayor Lary Coppola said during a City Council meeting in August. Some council members voiced similar views as they discussed the thorny issue. “We don’t violate federal law because it trumps state law.”

Gregoire joined Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee in filing the petition for Schedule 2 classification. Read the petition online.

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