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The one issue all the major gubernatorial candidates in the California recall agree on is that marijuana should be legally available to those who are medically helped by it. When asked about medical marijuana in a televised debate, Arianna Huffington and Tom McClintock took it one step further by saying that they would actively “fight federal restrictions.”
Since then, Lt.Governor Cruz Bustamante has given Americans for Safe Access personal assurances that he would support Californians facing federal prosecution for medical marijuana by “tak[ing] the federal government to court.” While Governor Gray Davis has been reticent in his support for the Compassionate Use Act, Mr. Bustamante said voters would find in him “real differences” from Davis on medical marijuana.
“We’re encouraged by the leadership Cruz Bustamante has promised us,” said Hilary McQuie, political director for Americans for Safe Access. “With 80% of Americans in favor of medical marijuana and support from across the political spectrum in the California recall race, this issue is coming to a head.”
In responses to a survey distributed by Americans for Safe Access, asking what the candidates would do to support medical marijuana patients and their caregivers, Mr. Bustamante, Ms. Huffington, and Green Party candidate Peter Camejo all pledged specific legal action in defense of their state’s citizens. Mr. Camejo writes that he would have the State of California formally intervene in federal prosecutions and would consider filing a civil suit to stop further federal prosecutions of medical marijuana cases.
Ms. Huffington has also said she will work with the state Attorney General's office to seek legal standing to intervene and would sue the federal government to stop prosecutions. Ms. Huffington says she would “ask for a meeting with President Bush, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, and DEA Administrator Karen Tandy and urge them to respect the wishes of California’s voters and stop arresting patients and caregivers.”
The unanimity of leading candidates’ support for California’ Compassionate Use Act is part of growing political action on the issue of medical access to marijuana. Currently before the U.S. House of Representatives are two bills that would protect those patients living in states with laws permitting the use of medical marijuana. H.R. 2233, ‘The States Rights to Medical Marijuana Act,’ calls for rescheduling marijuana and prevents federal interference with medical marijuana use and distribution in the ten states that have legalized it; while H.R. 1717, ‘The Truth in Trials Act,’ would allow anyone charged with federal marijuana violations to explain their medical situation at trial. A Senate version of ‘The Truth in Trials Act’ is to be introduced by Senator Dick Durbin (D., IL). In July, the House saw dramatic debate over a bi-partisan amendment to an appropriations bill, sponsored by Representatives Maurice Hinchey (D., NY) and Rohrabacher (R, CA), that would have stopped federal interference in state laws legalizing medical use.
A national coalition of 5,500 patients, doctors and advocates, Americans for Safe Access is the leading organization devoted to medical marijuana.