Christine Gregoire and Lincoln Chaffee, governors of Washington and Rhode Island, respectively, fired off an open letter to the federal government yesterday, urging the Obama administration to recognize marijuana as a substance with acceptable medical uses. Pot is legal for medicinal use in both states – as well as 15 others and the District of Columbia – but as far as the feds are concerned it’s an evil, illegal drug on par with heroin and LSD. In fact, the Obama administration has made a big point, especially lately, of busting medical marijuana operations in states where they’re legal, in defiance not only of state laws but of public opinion. (About 70 percent of Americans are ok with medical marijuana.)
In an interview with reporters Wednesday, Gregoire seemed eager for her state to move out of the legal gray area created by the disparity between state and federal law. “If our people really want medicinal marijuana, then we need to do it right,” Gregoire said. “We need to do it with safety, we need to do it with health in mind, and that’s best done in a process that we know works in this country – and that’s through a pharmacist.” Though the Drug Enforcement Agency rejected a petition to reclassify marijuana in June, the governor noted that, as it stands, marijuana is legally considered to be more dangerous than cocaine and opium. “People die from overdose of opiates,” she said. “Has anybody died from marijuana?”
So – good for Chaffee and Gregoire. But there’s a wrinkle. As Ethan Nadelmann of the pro-legalization Drug Policy Alliance, notes in a release, the federal-state disparity hasn’t stopped other states from sensibly regulating medical marijuana, and the governors of Washington and Rhode Island shouldn’t use their public call “as an excuse” to avoid doing likewise.