Candidates on cannabis

As America gears up for a federal election in November, activists are pushing for medical pot to become a prominent campaign issue.
A New Hampshire based group called Granite Staters for Medical Marijuana has been tracking presidential candidates’ statements on med-pot issues, and giving them a “report card” letter grade based on their support for patients’ rights.

On the Republican side, President Bush gets an F from the Granite Staters for his “unrelenting assault on medical marijuana dispensaries in California.” No surprise there. But how do the Democrat candidates rate on the issue?

The top grade of A goes to Dennis Kucinich, who has been quoted in the media as saying that he supports medical marijuana “without reservation.” Kucinich has also called for a total rethinking of federal drug policies, emphasizing treatment over criminalization. Kucinich has described federal raids against med-pot dispensaries as “a sign of government gone wrong.”

Carol Moseley Braun, former senator from Illinois, also got an excellent rating of A-. According to Granite Staters, she has “voiced support for federal legislation allowing seriously ill people to have medical marijuana, with their doctors’ approval.” She has also called for pot possession to be punishable only by a fine. However, while in government Braun did nothing to support medical marijuana.

John Kerry, Democratic Senator from Massachusetts, gets a B for telling the media that he supports a “scientific review” of medical pot, and that he would call for a “moratorium” on federal med-pot raids. Kerry has admitted to being a past pot smoker.

Richard Gephardt, Congressman from Montana, told Granite Staters that on the issue of med-pot, “states should determine the policy.” However, Gephardt gets a B- because in 1998 he voted for a federal resolution opposing state efforts to legalize marijuana for medical use.

Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean rates only a C. He has said that, as president, he would order a one-year moratorium on federal med-pot raids, to allow the FDA to study the issue of medical marijuana. Yet despite this, and despite being a former toker himself, in 2002 Dean strongly opposed a Vermont bill which would have protected med-pot patients from arrest and jail.

Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman and North Carolina Senator John Edwards both received failing grades. Even though he admits to being a past toker himself, Edwards gets a D- because he has said it would be “irresponsible” to stop arresting med-pot patients. Lieberman has not given a solid response on the issue, but he got a D because in 1998 he co-sponsored a bill opposing efforts to legalize marijuana for medical use.

Because he has never made a public statement on the issue, Al Sharpton rates an “incomplete.”

Granite Staters for Medical Marijuana encourages Americans to take action during this election, and “tell the presidential candidates that federal law should be changed.” Their website provides resources and contacts to make it easy for armchair activists to get involved.

? Granite Staters for Medical Marijuana: 603-669-2962; email [email protected]; web