Too many elected state leaders still fall for the idea that legalizing “medical” marijuana really isn’t about a well-monied national campaign to legalize all pot use.
And yet, truth be told, it is.
The latest twist in this ongoing political ruse is a request by two governors to have marijuana reclassified under federal drug law – even though such an effort is really a sideshow.
On Nov. 30, Gov. Chris Gregoire (D) of Washington and Gov. Lincoln Chafee (I) of Rhode Island asked the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to change how marijuana is rated as a drug under the Controlled Substances Act. Their 106-page petition seeks to have cannabis designated for limited medical use – a category known as “Schedule II” – while still retaining its status as a harmful substance with a high potential for abuse.
The governors claim they simply want safe access to pot for the ill in the 16 states that have so far decriminalized pot for medical reasons. Both of them are frustrated by recent federal crackdowns on the trafficking of “medical” marijuana. To protect state employees and others from being prosecuted, they recently killed proposals passed by their legislatures to allow pot dispensaries.
Rather than simply uphold the federal ban, the governors have caved to powerful pro-pot forces that seek legalization through the backdoor. They know the DEA only last July decided not to remove marijuana from Schedule I – the most restrictive category – based on a lack of consensus in the medical field. The agency found “a material conflict of opinion among experts.”
And this was the third time in recent decades that the DEA has denied such a petition.
The federal crackdown picked up steam two months ago in California, where four US Attorneys decided to end the abuse of marijuana dispensaries by thousands of people who have few health problems. Many California dispensaries were also shipping pot around the country.
The raids in California and other states are not aimed at individuals using pot for medical reasons. Rather they are directed at those who profit from the growing or selling of pot – and who extend those sales way beyond “medical” use.
As DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart says, “The known risks of marijuana use have not been shown to be outweighed by specific benefits in well-controlled clinical trials that scientifically evaluate safety and efficacy.”
But of course, the real issue isn’t whether the medical use of pot makes sense (especially when smoked). Instead, governors should simply uphold federal law – and Obama administration policy – that finds marijuana has too many adverse effects.
States should not be frustrating federal law by playing into the hands of the pro-pot legalization campaign.