A formal federal recognition of marijuana as a prescription drug is the logical approach to the medical marijuana debate. The current state-by-state approach that challenges federal drug laws only invites confusion for doctors, patients, dispensaries and law enforcement agencies.

The question of whether to permit medical uses of marijuana must be kept separate from the decriminalization debate. There is a vast difference between allowing the use of a substance to treat an illness or its symptoms, and lifting all restrictions on the drug.

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin is on the right tack joining efforts by governors of other states to push the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency to make it legal for doctors to prescribe marijuana for medicinal use.

Recognizing marijuana as a prescription medication also means it must be subject to the same testing and oversight as other medication.

In July, a Vermont law went into effect allowing four medical marijuana dispensaries. Since 2004, the state has allowed some patients suffering from specific chronic and debilitating conditions to register with the Department of Public Safety and grow limited quantities of marijuana.

The only sensible solution is a federal policy that makes room for the legitimate medical use of marijuana.

— The Burlington Free Press, Vermont, Dec. 2

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