Governor Chafee is under fire in Rhode Island for blocking three medical-marijuana dispensaries authorized in 2009 and selected in 2011 from starting operations. But he thinks the real problem is the inconsistent policy of the president he endorsed in 2008.
Asked by Rolling Stone magazine what the result has been from the Obama administration moving to prevent states from carrying out laws allowing the distribution of medical pot, Chafee replied: “Utter chaos.” The governor has faced protests and legal threats since suspending Rhode Island’s dispensary program in May.
Chafee offered his take in a new article published online last week that reports on “a shocking about-face” by the administration, which in 2009 gave the green light on medical marijuana to states but last year launched a widespread crackdown involving the DEA, the DoJ, the ATF, the IRS and U.S. attorneys nationwide:
The sharpest and most surprising rebuke to the administration has come from centrist governors who are fed up with the war on medicinal pot. In November, Gregoire and Chafee issued a bipartisan petition to the DEA, asking the agency to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II drug, the same as cocaine and meth – one with a recognized medicinal value, despite its high potential for abuse. “It’s time to show compassion, and it’s time to show common sense,” says Gregoire. “We call on the federal government to end the confusion and the unsafe burden on patients.”
A petition by two sitting governors is historic – but it’s unlikely to shift federal policy. Last June, after a nine-year delay, the Obama administration denied a similar petition. An official at the Department of Health and Human Services left little hope for reclassification, reiterating the Bush-era position that there is “no accepted medical use for marijuana in the United States.”
The DEA says it’s reviewing the petition from Chafee and Gregoire, though it’s unclear when and how the agency will respond. For a longer look at the state of play for medical marijuana in Rhode Island, read David Scharfenberg’s January article in The Providence Phoenix.
On a meta note, this is the second time in recent months Chafee has provided a crucial soundbite to Rolling Stone political correspondent Tim Dickinson. The governor offered some choice words on Republican economic policies in the magazine last November.