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Northwest Politicians Feel Burned By DEA's Marijuana Ruling

<p>A worker examines a bud of the hybrid Gorilla Glue #4 strain at Little Amsterdam in Southwest Portland.</p>

John Rosman


A worker examines a bud of the hybrid Gorilla Glue #4 strain at Little Amsterdam in Southwest Portland.

Political leaders in Oregon and Washington said they’re disappointed with Thursday's ruling from the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The agency denied a petition to reclassify the drug as less dangerous, meaning for now, the DEA still doesn't believe it has any medical value. That's despite voters in 25 states and the District of Columbia legalizing cannabis for medical purposes.

But the agency did agree to expand the number of manufactures registered to supply marijuana for research purposes.

Chris Gregoire asked the DEA to reclassify the drug when she was governor of Washington state. In a statement, Gov. Jay Inslee expressed his frustration saying there is not a national standard for medical marijuana.

"As states continue to legalize medical and recreational marijuana across the country, there is more that the federal government must to do to provide states with legal certainty and empower the operation of safe systems across the country," he said in a statement.

Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat, has long advocated for federal legalization of marijuana.

"This decision doesn’t go far enough and is further evidence that the DEA doesn’t get it," Blumenauer said in a statement.

He said the DEA's decision also doesn't address concerns surrounding banking or tax deductions.

"Keeping marijuana at Schedule I continues an outdated, failed approach—leaving patients and marijuana businesses trapped between state and federal laws," Blumenauer said. "It’s not right or fair."

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said the DEA's ruling "makes it more difficult for states that have legalized marijuana use, or who are poised to, to proceed lawfully and safely."

Oregon. Sen. Ron Wyden agreed, calling the DEA's decision to expand research opportunities into marijuana “the one little bit of sunlight here."

Wyden said fewer research restrictions on marijuana could help the DEA to change it's policy in the future.

"That ought to give the federal government the evidence it needs to reduce barriers to the potential medical benefits of marijuana," he said.

Editor's note: A previous version of this story misstated which Washington governor asked the DEA to reclassify the drug.

Copyright 2016 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Conrad Wilson is a reporter and producer covering criminal justice and legal affairs for OPB.