WASHINGTON - February 4 - As the presidential campaign moves to a series of caucuses and primaries in states that have adopted medical marijuana laws, voters are learning that the candidates have sharply different positions on the medical marijuana issue, the Marijuana Policy Project noted today. Those positions could resonate not only with primary and caucus voters, but also in November: In four of the medical marijuana states -- Washington, Maine, Nevada, and Oregon -- the November 2000 margin between victorious Republican candidate George W. Bush and Democratic candidate Al Gore was within five percentage points.
Of the leading candidates, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and Gen. Wesley Clark have pledged to end the Bush administration's raids on medical marijuana patients and providers. North Carolina Sen. John Edwards and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean -- who blocked a Vermont medical marijuana bill in 2002 -- have not. Edwards has said it would be "irresponsible" to stop arresting medical marijuana patients.
Two medical marijuana states -- Maine and Washington -- choose most of their delegates in caucuses this weekend, and Dean is pinning his hopes for reviving his campaign on Washington. Nevada and Hawaii hold caucuses February 14 and 24, respectively, and California holds its primary March 2.
"Every day I risk the threat of arrest and federal prison for the simple act of taking my medicine," said Monte F. Levine of Bremerton, Washington, who uses medical marijuana to treat the symptoms of hepatitis C and compressed disks. "I've been directly threatened with federal prosecution for trying to protect my health and the health of friends living with AIDS. We need a president who will stop this war on the sick."
"We saw clearly in New Hampshire that support for protecting medical marijuana patients is a political plus, with no downside at all for the candidates," said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C. "Our extensive field operation -- literature drops, auto-dial phone calls, television ads, and leafleting at campaign events -- ensured voters knew the candidates' positions. A solid majority in New Hampshire voted for candidates who pledged to stop the raids, and that sentiment will be even stronger in states that have directly felt these attacks on the seriously ill."