Governor-Chris-Gregoire.jpeg
Prohibition's End
Gov. Chris Gregoire
? Last week's request by Govs. Chris Gregoire and Rhode Island's Lincoln Chafee to have the federal government reclassify marijuana

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Should We Reschedule Marijuana? Second-Guessing Governor Chris Gregoire

The debate has been so skewed for so long that it's seen as a "bold move" to ask the feds to make marijuana officially and legally equal to methamphetamine and cocaine. Those drugs are already on Schedule II--are we supposed to view it as a "victory" for cannabis to join them?

Governor-Chris-Gregoire.jpeg
Prohibition's End
Gov. Chris Gregoire
?Last week's request by Govs. Chris Gregoire and Rhode Island's Lincoln Chafee to have the federal government reclassify marijuana as medicine--which at first glance looked like unalloyed good news for those who support safe access for patients--is actually a double-edged sword.

There are real problems with rescheduling marijuana. It would go from being a Schedule I substance--which officially has a "high potential for abuse" and "no accepted medical value"--to Schedule II: a potential for addiction and abuse, but with some accepted medical uses.

Foremost among these problems is that the debate has been so skewed for so long that it's seen as a "bold move" to ask the feds to make marijuana officially and legally equal to methamphetamine and cocaine. Those drugs are already on Schedule II--are we supposed to view it as a "victory" for cannabis to join them?

Moving marijuana to Schedule II will not change the federal penalties for possessing, growing, or distributing medicinal cannabis. If you tried to grow your own, you could still be in a lot of trouble. You'd also be required to buy the stuff at a pharmacy, as if it weren't a plant.

Secondly, the governors' call to reschedule pot--which will in all likelihood either be roundly ignored or summarily dismissed by the Drug Enforcement Administration, which for years has ignored the rulings and advice not only of numerous scientific experts, but also of its own administrative law judge--may well be a too-little, too-late attempt at legacy-burnishing.

You see, both Gregoire and Chafee were too hen-hearted to lead when the crucial moment came: when their legislatures did the right thing and established a system of legal, state-licensed medical-marijuana dispensaries. Both refused to move forward with the plans, citing nebulous concerns about federal prosecution of state employees, failing where governors in New Jersey, Vermont, Colorado, and New Mexico have succeeded.

But the third, and potentially most tragic, outcome of rescheduling marijuana is the possibility of losing safe access to the strains that help patients the most. Once cannabis becomes a Schedule II drug, it could be available only in pharmacies rather than dispensaries. And under such a scenario, much of the genetic richness of the cannabis plant--and the many medical applications of specific strains of indica, sativa, and the various hybrids thereof--could be lost to powerful, monied Big Pharma.

In that scenario--much as has already happened in Canada--"government pot" could be one, undifferentiated strain (or a homogenized concentrate like GW Pharmaceutical's Sativex), with the wrong cannabinoid ratio for many patients. Thus it would prove next to useless to them medicinally.

Is the rescheduling call just a cover for political cowardice? A Trojan horse through which Big Pharma hopes to take over the lucrative medical-marijuana industry? Or is it a genuine call for reform? Stay tuned.

Steve Elliott edits Toke of the Town, Village Voice Media's site of cannabis news, views, rumor, and humor.


Toke Signals wants to review your dispensary. E-mail tokesignals@seattleweekly.com.

 
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