Last November the American Medical Association issued a report asking the federal government to “review” marijuana’s status as a Schedule I drug. A year earlier, the American College of Physicians, the second-largest physician group in the country, made a similar request. To date, the federal government has been equivocal, to no one’s benefit.

Schedule 1 drugs — a category that includes, among others, PCP, ecstasy, peyote, LSD and the date-rape drug GHB — are considered to have a high potential for abuse, no accepted medical benefits in the U.S., and are not considered safe under medical supervision. As such, they cannot be sold through pharmacies.

Of the 14 states that have passed medical marijuana legislation, most allow for the cultivation of plants by patients. But less than half make provisions for patients who can’t grow their own. Those that do have had to circumvent the federal classification by assigning care giver status to growers, making provisions for independent marijuana dispensaries and establishing patient registries for medical marijuana users.

The Obama administration announced in October that it would not prosecute patients, dispensaries and growers working within state laws. But there is hardly a consensus within the administration, as is evident in the Drug Enforcement Agency’s public stance on medical marijuana. The introduction reads:

“The campaign to legitimize what is called ‘medical’ marijuana is based on two propositions: that science views marijuana as medicine, and that DEA targets sick and dying people using the drug. Neither proposition is true. Smoked marijuana has not withstood the rigors of science — it is not medicine and it is not safe.”

In a lengthy opinion that cites sources ranging from the American Academy of Pediatrics to High Times magazine, the DEA gives no credence to the idea that smoked marijuana’s benefits outweigh its harmful side-effects. The only assurance offered to someone looking to grow or distribute marijuana within one of the states where it is legal is a gruff rebuke in the introduction, “DEA targets criminals engaged in cultivation and trafficking, not the sick and dying.”

Anyone who has met a person who uses marijuana to mitigate pain from cancer, glaucoma or any of the other uses that appear on the lists of every state that has passed medical marijuana legislation understands that, as with narcotics, there is little if any correlation between medical and recreational uses of the drug. Were the federal government to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II drug — a category that includes a number of commonly abused drugs that have been determined to have medical benefits in certain situations, including cocaine, oxycodone, opium and methamphetamines — it would hardly be a concession to those who advocate for unrestricted legalization.

Marijuana may not exactly fit the definition of a Schedule II drug, the abuse of which “may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.” Nor does it cleanly fit under Schedule III, IV or V.

As 14 states have shown, the medical benefits of marijuana are becoming broadly accepted. Now the federal government should move to modify one of the existing drug classifications or create a new category, so that marijuana can be sold in a pharmacy, as medicine. Which it sometimes is.