Reclassifying marijuana would allow it to be prescribed as medicine (photo: O'Dea)

In a big move today for medical marijuana, Washington state Governor Christine Gregoire (D) and Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee (I) requested that the federal government re-schedule (reclassify) marijuana. The policy change would allow marijuana to be legally prescribed as a medicine under federal law. From the Office of Gov. Gregoire:

Gov. Chris Gregoire today announced she filed a petition with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration asking the agency to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule 2 drug, which will allow its use for treatment – prescribed by doctors and filled by pharmacists. Gov. Lincoln Chafee (I-RI) also signed the petition.

The petition will require the Federal Drug Administration to conduct a new scientific review and analysis of recent advances in Cannabis research since the last time the FDA reviewed the matter in 2006.

The only reason medical marijuana isn’t legal at the federal level is that it is listed by the DEA as a schedule I drug, meaning that according to federal law it has no medical use, so it can’t be legally prescribed. There is no reason, though, that the executive agencies under the direct of President Obama can’t listen to the science and the public on this issue by moving cannabis to a different schedule that allows it to be legally prescribed.

Moving a drug from one schedule to another doesn’t require an act of Congress; it’s done relatively often by the executive branch. Moving marijuana to schedule II (the same schedule as Oxycontin and Adderall) would allow doctors to legally prescribe marijuana under federal law while keeping marijuana illegal for recreational use.

If marijuana were declared a schedule II or III substance, that action would mostly eliminate the federal government justification for its ridiculous harassment of state’s medical marijuana systems, medical marijuana patients, and state public employees.

With this move Gov. Gregoire and Gov. Chafee are putting the onus squarely on President Obama where it belongs. The only reason medical marijuana isn’t legal in this country, and the main reason needy patients and care givers continue to be harassed by federal agencies, is because the Obama administration has failed to use its power to move marijuana to a lower scheduling.

It is great to see that very high ranking elected officials are now starting to call for the popular, correct and long overdue move of having the federal government re-schedule marijuana. It is now time, indeed about time, for Obama to act in the public interest.