Shumlin Joins Effort To Reclassify Marijuana

12/02/11 6:34AM By Bob Kinzel
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(Host) Governor Peter Shumlin says he's joining an effort to encourage the federal government to reclassify marijuana as a drug that has medicinal benefits.

Under the plan, doctors could write prescriptions for marijuana and local pharmacies would be allowed to fill these prescriptions.

VPR's Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chaffee is one of the main organizers of this plan. He says a group of 16 states, including Vermont, have passed legislation allowing the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

But he says these states risk the possibility of federal prosecution because marijuana is considered to be what is known as a "Schedule One" drug.

So the plan is to have the federal government reclassify marijuana as a Schedule Two drug. That's a move that would put it in the same category as many prescription drugs. Governor Shumlin thinks this change makes a lot of sense.

(Shumlin)"I believe that we should use our precious resources to go after drug dealers and the other challenges that we face criminals and the rest. I think it's ludicrous that marijuana is put in the same category by the federal government as heroin and other drugs that are extraordinarily addictive. So I think moving it to a class two drug makes a lot of sense."

(Kinzel) And the Governor says the state's law enforcement community should concentrate on the abuse of other drugs that are more addictive.

(Shumlin)"Vermont and Maine happen to share the distinction of having per capita the highest number of residents who are abusing Oxycontin and other opiates that are sold by pharmacies and are legal in America according to the FDA. I personally think that that's a much bigger crime problem for us and a much bigger addiction problem for us that's leading to crime than small amounts of marijuana. So I just think we have to be logical about our drug policies in this country and we're not."

(Kinzel) Eventually, Shumlin says he'd like to see the Vermont Legislature go even further.

(Shumlin)"I just support Vermont moving to the same system that many other states, Massachusetts, Alaska, California and others have implemented which is to decriminalize the offense for small amounts of marijuana."

(Kinzel) Rhode Island has a law, similar to one in Vermont, that sets up marijuana dispensaries for medical uses but Governor Chaffee says he's delaying the implementation of this plan because he fears that federal officials will bring charges against the dispensaries.

For VPR News I'm Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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