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News (Media Awareness Project) - US WA: Let Pharmacists Sell Pot, Governors Urge
Title:US WA: Let Pharmacists Sell Pot, Governors Urge
Published On:2011-12-01
Source:News Tribune, The (Tacoma, WA)
Fetched On:2011-12-03 06:01:18
LET PHARMACISTS SELL POT, GOVERNORS URGE

DEA: Gregoire, Rhode Island governor ask federal agency to acknowledge
drug's medical uses by reclassifying it

Gov. Chris Gregoire asked the federal government Wednesday to rescue
states from legal limbo by allowing pharmacies to sell marijuana.

Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, a political independent and former
Republican senator, joined Washington's Democratic governor in
petitioning the Drug Enforcement Administration to reclassify
marijuana.

They want the DEA to acknowledge the drug's medical uses by
downgrading it from Schedule 1, the home of heroin and LSD, to
Schedule 2, which includes methamphetamine and cocaine but also more
commonly prescribed drugs such as oxycodone and morphine.

Gregoire told reporters there's a "huge volume of interest" from other
governors in joining their effort. But their chances of success are
uncertain, and in any case, they are probably in for a long wait. The
DEA denied a different petition to reclassify the drug in June - nine
years after the petition was filed.

Things have changed since the research leading to that denial,
Gregoire said: "We know now that pharmacists actually can dispense
this. We know that the chemistry is there to do so."

Among other points, the 99-page petition says marijuana has never
caused a lethal overdose and it's less addictive than alcohol and
caffeine. Gregoire said the petition is backed by three months of
research and written with help from doctors. The concept is endorsed
by much of the medical establishment, including the doctors of the
American Medical Association.

"There are an awful lot of resources allocated to prosecuting
marijuana usage that might be better allocated elsewhere," said Tom
Curry, CEO of the Washington State Medical Association.

And the CEO of the Washington State Pharmacy Association, Jeff Rochon,
said in a statement that marijuana should be "managed and monitored
under the expert guidance of pharmacists who are required to obtain a
professional doctorate degree and undergo continuing education to
maintain licensure."

Gregoire said pharmacies should replace dispensaries as the way
patients obtain the drug.

The storefront dispensaries that make up a growing industry in
Washington won't relish the thought of being replaced by Walgreens and
Rite Aid.

"All of those people of course would be shut down," said Kent
Underwood, a Tacoma lawyer who represents several storefront
operations. "You have big business potentially taking over. That has
potentially a dramatic effect on the prices. Most of the people that
are using medical cannabis are very poor anyway."

Patients pay from as low as $200 to more than $400 for an ounce of
marijuana now, Underwood said.

LEGAL CONFLICTS

Gregoire refused last winter to legalize and license storefront
dispensaries, as the Legislature wanted.

She said she worried state employees could be prosecutors' next target
if they are forced to regulate marijuana sales.

The state's 1998 voter initiative authorizing medical marijuana isn't
recognized by federal law that makes the drug illegal. As in other
states, federal prosecutors on both sides of the Cascades have
targeted dispensaries. Seattle U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan said
November raids focused on sellers operating outside the bounds of
state rules.

Gregoire and lawmakers did agree to let patients grow marijuana in
collective gardens. Seattle quickly interpreted that to allow
storefront sales, while most other cities have cracked down on
dispensaries. The Tacoma City Council hasn't decided what to do.

The law "has resulted in considerable chaos around the state, because
we now have it different depending on which particular county or city
you're in," Gregoire acknowledged Wednesday.

Voters might be asked to weigh in again on next fall's statewide
ballot, this time on whether to legalize sales of the drug for
recreational uses.

But Gregoire said only federal action would solve conflicting laws by
allowing doctors to write a true prescription for the drug and
pharmacists to fill it.

Her petition will make its way to the Food and Drug Administration,
which she said will have to do a scientific review of the research
conducted since it last considered the issue in 2006. The FDA makes
recommendations to the DEA.
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