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Federal Gov. May Control Future of Medical Mj

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Feb 13, 00
Northwest Arkansas Times (AR)
Copyright: 2000 Community Publishers Inc.
Author: Jason Harmon, Staff Writer
FEDERAL GOVERNMENT MAY CONTROL FUTURE OF MEDICAL MARIJUANA The future of marijuana as medicine in Arkansas may very well hinge not on ballot initiatives, but on the outcome of November's presidential election. While none of the candidates from the Democratic or Republican parties have gone on the record supporting the use of marijuana as medicine, observers have pointed out the changing generational makeup of the candidates could alter public policy towards marijuana and other drugs in general. Although Democratic presidential candidate Vice President Al Gore has admitted using marijuana on several occasions, when asked about the candidate's stance on medical marijuana his campaign staff said he opposes legalization efforts across the country. According to Kathleen Begala, communications director for Gore 2000, the campaign is opposed to most state initiatives supporting medical marijuana because they are too broadly written and lack essential, tough safeguards to prevent abuse of the programs. However, she added, if research validates claims of marijuana's medical benefits additional testing could be conducted under very limited, highly regulated conditions. "If a doctor has decided marijuana is the only available therapy, we may have to consider the possibility marijuana may be prescribed for pain management, but only with strict supervision," Begala explained. Yet in December while campaigning in New Hampshire, Gore told reporters his own sister had been prescribed marijuana to combat the effects of chemotherapy in 1984. However, when asked about the apparent double standard, Begala was quick to point out marijuana was legal to prescribe under Tennessee law in 1984. Furthermore, she added, marijuana therapy did not work for Gore's sister, and the treatment was discontinued. Regardless of the campaign's official stance, some election observers have suggested that due to his recreational experience with marijuana, Gore's own strategy in addressing marijuana, and drug issues in general, could be a substantial departure from President Bill Clinton's administration. A similar negative stance against medical marijuana was expressed by Democratic presidential candidate Bill Bradley's campaign staff. When asked about Bradley's position, Christin Ludeche, deputy press secretary for the Bradley campaign, said quite simply the campaign does not support legalization of medical marijuana. Although like Gore, Bradley himself admitted to having smoked marijuana recreationally, but not frequently. As for Republican's, Arizona Sen. John McCain claims to have never used drugs of any sort, in part, he offered to one reporter, because he is 63 years old, and essentially grew up before recreational drugs were readily available in America. When inquiries were made into McCain's position on medical marijuana in specific, his campaign staff would not return calls, and no position statement was obtained. Speculation about previous drug experimentation has continued to follow Republican presidential candidate and Texas Governor George W. Bush as he seeks the White House. However, Scott McClellan, spokesperson for the Bush for president campaign, said Bush strongly supports current federal laws prohibiting marijuana use. While the candidate supports the rights of individual states to make laws through the initiative process, McClellan said, Bush opposes marijuana for medical use. Although national observers have claimed changes are likely in the nation's drug policies, until the election is over, and a winner assumes office, the federal fate of medical marijuana use will remain speculation.