Medical marijuana advocates are hoping state governments can succeed where their efforts have failed by asking federal authorities to reclassify pot as a drug with medical use.
Shortly before Christmas, Colorado became the fourth state to ask the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to reclassify marijuana as a narcotic in the same league as heavyweight painkillers including oxycodone. The governors of Washington and Rhode Island filed a formal petition with the agency in November, and Vermont signed onto that request shortly afterward.
All four are among the sixteen states and the District of Columbia that have laws on the books that allow the medical use of marijuana, even though the drug remains illegal under federal law. Meanwhile, federal authorities have asserted their power by raiding dispensaries in states including California and Washington.
Supporters say the public is on their side, and the state requests show the feds are increasingly isolated on the issue. But they acknowledge it’s still an uphill battle.
"I don’t think that we’re going to see to much change in Washington’s position on this until public opinion and state-level support reaches a little bit higher a tipping point," said read Morgan Fox, a spokesman for the D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project.