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42 Washington State Lawmakers Petition DEA for Marijuana Reclassification

42 Washington State Lawmakers Petition DEA for Medical Marijuana ReclassificationOLYMPIA, Wa. — More than 36 Washington state legislators sent a formal request to the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) requesting that marijuana's drug classification be changed so as to allow Washington state doctors to prescribe it. The reclassification also will allow state pharmacists to fill medical marijuana prescriptions.

The letter requests that marijuana's classification be changed from its current schedule I class to schedule II. Schedule I drugs are drugs deemed by the federal government to have no medically acceptable use. As such, schedule I drugs like heroin, Ecstasy, LSD, and marijuana cannot be be prescribed, dispensed, nor administered since they don't have any legal medical uses.

The lawmakers' letter comes in the wake of a previous request for clarification by Washington governor Chris Gregoire. Among the 42 legislators who signed the reclassification letter were seven Republicans.

Concurrent with the letter, state Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-Seattle) also introduced a Senate memorial, Joint Memorial 8017, which also makes the same appeal for the reclassification of medical marijuana. 8017 was slated for a Thursday hearing by the Health & Long Term Care Committee.

Last November, both Governor Gregoire and Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee petitioned the DEA to reclassify medical marijuana. Rhode Island and Washington are just two of the 16 states where medical marijuana is legal. The District of Columbia has also legalized marijuana use for medical purposes.

Medical marijuana was approved in Washington in 1998. The law gives physicians the legal right to only recommend marijuana to treat people with "intractable pain" caused by cancer and various other pain-causing conditions. The law does not give doctors the authorization to prescribe medical marijuana.

Because of concern for federal prosecution of state workers, a bill reforming Washington's medical marijuana statute was vetoed by Gregoire. Currently, a new bill seeks to give patients who need medical marijuana easier access to cannabis. The proposed law would give local governments authority to regulate nonprofit cooperatives. Each coop's marijuana growing capacity is capped by the bill at 99 plants.

The pending bill prohibits medical marijuana coops from operating in counties that have less than 200,000 residents. However, local ordinances can override this default cap. Similarly, counties that meet the minimum population threshold are given the leeway of opting out. Finally, the proposed law will create a patient registry.