WA: Marijuana Reform Is A Slow, Painful Process

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The decision last week by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to keep classifying marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, lacking medicinal value, was disappointing. That’s especially true in Washington, a pioneer state for medical and recreational use of cannabis.

Voters here and in a handful of other states have voted to end the recreational-marijuana prohibition, and another nine states are considering such a move this year. A total of 26 states allow medical marijuana, and the national trend is away from prohibition and toward a more rational policy.

Though some cannabis industry experts see little impact coming from the DEA ruling in states with legalized medical marijuana, the federal agency chose to stick with an antiquated rule adopted in 1970. It puts marijuana in the same category of dangerous drugs as heroin and LSD.

Certainly the drug has risks and can be abused, and surely it is – as is alcohol. But equating its danger to heroin is not credible.

As our former governor Christine Gregoire told a McClatchy Newspapers reporter: “While I haven’t read it, the outcome puts the DEA totally out of touch with the Justice Department, current research, the medical profession, patients and the public.”

Gregoire as governor, along with Rhode Island’s governor Lincoln Chaffee, asked the DEA in 2011 to change its classification of cannabis to reflect current reality on the ground.

Despite the illegality of marijuana use under federal law, the U.S. Justice Department has taken a hands-off approach for states that allow medicinal marijuana or recreational sales. The key has been that the states regulate the sales well.

Toward that end, Washington has been working to bring more predictability to the medicinal market and rein in its Wild-West aspects by merging the medical market with the recreational one that began in 2014.

The DEA’s decision carries one very useful piece. The agency is loosening restrictions on research into medical marijuana, which up to now has required all research marijuana to come from a single Mississippi facility. If researchers can potentially grow their own or obtain more varieties, it could speed the research that could clarify how cannabis works as a medicine and how it is best used.

Unfortunately, for those medical marijuana patients who criticize regulations that make it harder to get the medications they want, the DEA offered no help.

And with Washington’s recreational marijuana market failing to provide much medical-grade marijuana since the July 1 merger of markets, many patients can be expected to go to the black market to obtain illicit products for relief of certain kinds of pain and other afflictions they think are remedied by marijuana.

Of course, seeing that markets get more robust over time is only one challenge. Federal banking laws also need changing so that operators of marijuana stores can legally deposit proceeds, and avoid the risks of keeping large stashes of paper money in a vault.

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: Marijuana Reform Is A Slow, Painful Process
Author: Editorial Board
Contact: 360-754-5400
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Website: The Olympian