[mgj-discuss] Medical Marijuana Advocates Likely to Get a Break Under Kerry

Richard Lake rlake at mapinc.org
Sun Oct 10 13:08:32 EDT 2004


URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v04/n1436/a04.html

Pubdate: Sun, 10 Oct 2004
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Page: A-4
Webpage: 
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2004/10/10/MNG0996S2L1.DTL
Copyright: 2004 Hearst Communications Inc.
Contact: letters at sfchronicle.com
Website: http://www.sfgate.com/chronicle/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/388
Author: Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/mmj.htm (Cannabis - Medicinal)
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/people/Kerry (Kerry, John)
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/bush.htm (Bush, George)

MEDICAL MARIJUANA ADVOCATES LIKELY TO GET A BREAK UNDER KERRY

DEMOCRAT SAYS HE WOULD STOP POT CLUB RAIDS PUSHED BY BUSH

Sen. John Kerry hasn't tried to make medical marijuana an issue in his
presidential campaign, but he has some differences with President Bush
on the subject.

Kerry says he would end the raids that have been a feature of the Bush
administration's crackdown on medical marijuana in California, where
voters approved the use of the drug for medical purposes in 1996. The
Massachusetts senator has also signed a letter urging the
administration to stop blocking medical marijuana research at the
University of Massachusetts.

Perhaps most importantly, Kerry said at a campaign forum last year
that his "disposition is personally favorable" to marijuana as
medicine, but that he would await further scientific studies before
taking a definitive stand. He also criticized mandatory minimum prison
sentences for first offenders and called for more drug education and
treatment.

That's not nearly as far as activists would like him to go. Kerry
hasn't endorsed legalizing medical marijuana at the federal level or
leaving the issue up to the states and hasn't backed legislation,
currently stalled in Congress, that would allow patients and suppliers
to use their state laws as a defense against federal charges.

But Kerry's position and tone suggest that he would take a different
approach than Bush, who has escalated the federal war against state
medical marijuana laws launched by his predecessor, Bill Clinton.

Where the Clinton administration focused on civil suits to shut down
the nonprofit clubs that supplied marijuana to California patients,
the Bush administration has used criminal prosecutions against growers
and suppliers, has sent federal agents to seize a patient's six
homegrown marijuana plants and is preparing for a high-stakes U.S.
Supreme Court battle against two seriously ill Northern California
women.

The president hasn't mentioned medical marijuana during the campaign.
But in his last campaign, during a 1999 appearance in Seattle, he
answered questions about the issue by saying, "I believe each state
can choose that decision as they so choose."

Bush, who regularly portrays his rival as a flip-flopper, has yet to
explain his own apparent turnabout on this subject. Asked by The
Chronicle about the president's views, now and in the past, Bush's
campaign office reiterated his opposition to medical marijuana.

The issue may not have much effect on the presidential election. But
the outcome of the election is likely to affect the future of medical
marijuana, in part because of the case scheduled to be argued in the
Supreme Court term that begins next month.

The two plaintiffs, Angel Raich of Oakland and Diane Monson of
Oroville (Butte County), want court orders barring the federal
government from interfering with their doctor-approved use of
marijuana as therapy for their conditions, Raich's brain tumor and
wasting syndrome and Monson's back spasms.

A federal appeals court ruled last December that the federal ban on
marijuana couldn't be constitutionally applied to patients who obtain
the drug without charge from within the state in which they live, if
the state allows marijuana use for medical purposes. The ruling had
the potential to shield local marijuana cooperatives from federal
prosecution, but the Supreme Court granted the Bush administration's
request to review the case.

If the government wins, it will be free to target patients as well as
their suppliers in the nine states that have legalized medical
marijuana. That decision would be up to the incoming administration, a
circumstance that adds significance to Kerry's comments at an August
2003 town hall meeting in New Hampshire.

Asked by a local activist about marijuana, the senator said, according
to a transcript, "My disposition is personally favorable but ... I
want to get that scientific review to make certain that there's a way
to manage it effectively. ... I certainly would put a moratorium on
the raids until that has happened."

Kerry has said on other occasions that he would halt medical marijuana
raids, sometimes specifying raids on patients. Dale Gieringer,
California coordinator for the National Organization for the Reform of
Marijuana Laws, says Kerry told him at a fund-raiser last year that he
favored keeping federal agents out of medical marijuana clubs.

With regard to research, Kerry and his Massachusetts colleague, Sen.
Edward Kennedy, signed a letter to the Drug Enforcement Administration
last October urging approval of the University of Massachusetts'
proposal to grow marijuana for its own federally approved medical
research. When the DEA did not respond, researchers and advocates
filed suit this July.

Kerry's campaign did not respond to requests from The Chronicle to
spell out his position on medical marijuana.

Similar inquiries were made to the Bush campaign, including references
to Bush's 1999 statement on leaving the issue to the states. The
campaign's response didn't mention the 1999 comment, but instead
accused Kerry of "flip-flopping on medical marijuana" by saying he
was open to the issue but was withholding final judgment until
research was completed. The campaign did not explain how those
positions were inconsistent.

Bush's campaign also supplied a statement from then-press secretary
Ari Fleischer at a 2001 press briefing. He said Bush "does not believe
that it's appropriate to allow what is a controlled substance to be
given to people in terms of medical marijuana. There are other
effective ways, the president believes, to help people who suffer illness."
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MAP posted-by: Derek 



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