Last Wednesday, the governors of Rhode Island and Washington asked the federal government to reclassify marijuana as a drug with medical uses, the New York Times reports. The proposed rescheduling would change marijuana from a Schedule I drug–a substance with “high potential for abuse” and “no accepted medical value”–to Schedule II, which would class it with drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine. The government asserts that Schedule II drugs carry a high risk for abuse and addiction, but have some accepted medical use.
Colorado’s HB 10-1284–the medical marijuana bill–requires the state to make a similar request. On the Thursday following the two governors’ petition, Westword posted this statement from Eric Brown, a spokesperson for the governor’s office:
“The governors in Washington and Rhode Island raise a valid conflict that needs to be resolved. Colorado law requires we make a similar ask of the federal government by Jan. 1. We will do that. We will also continue to consult with other governors on this issue and with Colorado’s attorney general before deciding whether anything else will be done.”
Regardless of the state’s opinions, Colorado government must seek a federal rescheduling of cannabis by the new year. But, as Steve Elliott wrote for Seattle Weekly, this isn’t necessarily a good thing. “Are we supposed to view it as a ‘victory’ for cannabis to join [coke and meth on Schedule II status]?”
Of course not. It’s in no way a victory. Placing marijuana on Schedule II means it would only be available through pharmacies–say goodbye to dispensaries if this actually happens. Moreover, patients and caregivers wouldn’t be allowed to grow their own. This kind of rescheduling could require an overhaul of Colorado’s current medical marijuana laws.
So where does cannabis belong with regards to the Controlled Substances Act? It may be too soon to tell. Its medical uses are fairly established, which would qualify it for anything but Schedule I (where it is currently.) But its potential for abuse and addiction–well, that depends on how we classify marijuana abuse. Not everyone agrees on whether or not pot is addictive, or how it is addictive. If we accept its medicinal value, can we also accept its recreational value?
Should the federal government choose to reschedule weed, the sixteen states with medical marijuana laws will see some changes. Putting it on Schedule II could halt the push for treating cannabis like alcohol. Or, it could be a step in the right direction. Only time will tell.