OLYMPIA, Wash. - More than three dozen Washington state lawmakers sent a letter to the federal government on Monday, asking for marijuana to be reclassified as a drug that can be prescribed by doctors and filled by pharmacists.
Reclassifying marijuana as a Schedule II drug would allow it to be prescribed by doctors and handled by pharmacists. Marijuana is currently classified a Schedule 1 drug, meaning it's not accepted for medical treatment and can't be prescribed, administered or dispensed.
In the letter to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the lawmakers said they supported Gov. Chris Gregoire's previous request on the issue. Seven Republican lawmakers were among the 42 in both the House and the Senate who signed the letter.
In addition to the letter, Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, introduced Senate Joint Memorial 8017 making the same request to reclassify medical marijuana. The joint memorial was scheduled for a hearing in the Health & Long Term Care Committee on Thursday.
Gregoire and Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee filed the petition with the DEA last November. Washington and Rhode Island are two of 16 states and the District of Columbia that have laws allowing the medical use of marijuana.
Washington voters approved a medical marijuana law in 1998 that gives doctors the right to recommend — but not prescribe — marijuana for people suffering from cancer and other conditions that cause "intractable pain."
Last year, Gregoire vetoed most of a bill that made major reforms to the state's medical marijuana law, saying state workers could be prosecuted under federal law the way the measure was written.
A separate bill this year is attempting to provide medical marijuana patients with easier access to the drug. The new proposal would allow local governments to regulate nonprofit patient cooperatives, which could grow up to 99 plants.
Under the latest proposal, nonprofit patient cooperatives would be prohibited in counties with fewer than 200,000 residents — mostly rural areas — unless local jurisdictions enact ordinances allowing them. The cooperatives would be allowed in counties with a population of more than 200,000 unless local jurisdictions opt out through an ordinance.
The plan would create a voluntary registry for patients.