MANCHESTER, NEW HAMPSHIRE — With the medical marijuana issue already drawing attention on the presidential campaign trail, the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) has returned to New Hampshire to join with local residents in an effort to press the candidates to take a stand on behalf of the seriously ill and their caregivers. As a result, most major party presidential candidates have already expressed support for ending federal attacks on medical marijuana patients and caregivers, including Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC), who defended the federal medical marijuana raids in 2004.
Headquartered in Manchester, MPP-supported Granite Staters for Medical Marijuana (GSMM) has already begun organizing New Hampshire medical marijuana patients and supporters, and pressuring candidates. "Volunteers and ill residents are confronting candidates at public events as they campaign throughout New Hampshire," said GSMM campaign manager Stuart Cooper. "Residents are forcing presidential contenders to take a clear stance on this issue because voters ought to know which candidates want to protect seriously ill Americans, and which candidates want to have them arrested and jailed."
The Bush administration has conducted an all-out war on medical marijuana patients, arresting seriously ill people using marijuana legally under the laws of 12 states to treat the symptoms of cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and other serious illnesses, along with those patients' caregivers. The raids have sparked national outrage and sharply critical editorials in newspapers across the country, including The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Los Angeles Times.
Four years ago, GSMM succeeded in getting positive statements on medical marijuana from six of the nine Democratic presidential hopefuls, including eventual nominee Sen. John Kerry (D-MA). Earlier this year, the New Hampshire Legislature considered legislation to protect seriously ill residents who use medical marijuana with their doctor's approval (HB 774), narrowly defeating the bill by a vote of 186-177.
Most of the 2008 contenders have already taken a clear position on the issue. Two weeks ago, John Edwards, who in 2004 was a strong opponent to ending the federal raids, told voters at a Derry town hall meeting, "we will not be going in and raiding the use of marijuana for medical purposes in states that have legalized it. I think where democracy has worked, where voters have decided this should be legalized, I will not as president go in and run contrary to the will of the people in those states where it has been legalized."
All eight Democratic candidates have taken positive positions on medical marijuana. Six candidates have publicly promised to end the federal raids, including Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE), Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), John Edwards (D-NC), Mike Gravel (D-AK), and Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM), who in April signed legislation making New Mexico the 12th state to protect residents who use medical marijuana. Senators Barack Obama (D-IL) and Hillary Clinton (D-NY) have yet to clearly state their support for ending the raids, but along with Sen. Dodd, they voted in opposition to federal legislation in committee that would have increased the penalties for growing and distributing medical marijuana in states that have approved its use.
Many of the Republican candidates have also taken compassionate positions on medical marijuana, including former secretary of Heath and Human Services Tommy Thompson, who recently stated on two separate occasions that he would end the raids on patients. Last year, Reps. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) and Ron Paul (R-TX) voted with Kucinich in support of the Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment, which would have cut off funding for federal raids on states with medical marijuana programs.
McCain and former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore have both taken positions protecting states' rights, with McCain saying he would, "let states decide" the medical marijuana issue.
Not all candidates have shown compassion for the seriously ill. Neither former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts nor former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani have taken a clear position one way or another. Former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR), Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS), and Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) have all stated that they would continue having cancer and AIDS patients arrested for their use of medical marijuana.
GSMM's Web site, GraniteStaters.com, includes a variety of resources for voters concerned about medical marijuana, including a voter guide with details about the candidates' actions and statements to date, as well as information about how to participate in the campaign.
Based in Manchester, New Hampshire, Granite Staters for Medical Marijuana is a grassroots coalition of patients and activists. GSMM is organizing during the New Hampshire presidential primary campaign to raise awareness of the need for federal action to protect medical marijuana patients. For further information, please see www.GraniteStaters.com.