Sen. John Kerry hasn’t made medical marijuana an issue in his presidential campaign, but he has differences with President Bush on the subject, says the San Francisco Chronicle. Kerry 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. Kerry has signed a letter urging the administration to stop blocking medical marijuana research at the University of Massachusetts. Kerry said 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.
Kerry hasn’t endorsed legalizing medical marijuana at the federal level or leaving the issue up to the states and hasn’t backed legislation stalled in Congress that would allow patients and suppliers to use their state laws as a defense against federal charges. Kerry’s position and tone suggest that he would take a different approach from Bush, who has escalated the federal war against state medical marijuana laws launched by his predecessor, Bill Clinton. Clinton 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. In his last campaign, he answered questions about the issue by saying, “I believe each state can choose that decision as they so choose.”