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The governors of Rhode Island and Washington have asked the federal government to reclassify marijuana as a drug with accepted medical uses. Both states have decriminalized marijuana for medical purposes. The governors say reclassifying marijuana will help them regulate the safe distribution of the drug without the risk of federal prosecution, The New York Times reports.

Currently 16 states allow medical marijuana. Federal prosecutors have targeted efforts to grow and distribute the drug, the article notes.

“The divergence in state and federal law creates a situation where there is no regulated and safe system to supply legitimate patients who may need medical cannabis,” Governor Christine Gregoire of Washington and Governor Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island wrote to Michele M. Leonhart, the administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Marijuana is classified by the federal government as a Schedule I controlled substance, along with LSD and heroin. The government considers these drugs to have a high potential for abuse, with no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.

The governors have asked that marijuana be reclassified as a Schedule II controlled substance, alongside cocaine and morphine. The federal government considers these drugs to have a strong potential for abuse and addiction, but to have “some accepted medical use and may be prescribed, administered or dispensed for medical use.”

Changing marijuana’s classification could lead to pharmacies dispensing marijuana, according to the newspaper.

Earlier this year, warning letters from the federal government about medical marijuana prompted Governor Gregoire to veto a proposal to create licensed marijuana dispensaries. The letter warned that state employees would not be exempt from prosecution if they regulated medical marijuana. Although no state workers have been charged under federal law for regulating medical marijuana, Gregoire said she didn’t want to risk it.

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