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Gov. Gregoire files petition to reclassify marijuana

For Immediate Release: November 30, 2011

OLYMPIA – 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.

“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,” Governor Chafee said. “Patients across Rhode Island and across the United States, many of whom are in tremendous pain, stand to experience some relief. Governor 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.”

Currently, the DEA classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug. According to the DEA, drugs listed in schedule I have no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States and, therefore, may not be prescribed, administered, or dispensed for medical use. In contrast, drugs listed in schedules II-V have some accepted medical use and may be prescribed, administered, or dispensed for medical use, with controls.

“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.

The 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, it is easy to determine the plant’s beneficial compound – 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.

Under the Controlled Substances Act, any interested party is allowed to petition to add, delete or change the schedule of a drug or other substance. When a petition is received by the DEA, the agency begins its own investigation of the drug.

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