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February 2004
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Illinois testing the medical marijuana waters

Reported in the Quad-City Times:

Cancer and AIDS sufferers as well as Illinoisans suffering from glaucoma, would be able to grow, possess and use marijuana without fear of arrest or jail under legislation just introduced in the General Assembly.

But House Bill 4868’s sponsor, Rep.ć Angelo “Skip” Saviano, R-River Grove, said his motivation in offering the measure is only to educate his fellow lawmakers.

“I’m approaching this with the idea of seeing where everybody lines up on it – law enforcement, the medical community – to see if this would be something feasible or palatable,” he said.

As a practical matter, he said the measure probably will not make it to the electronic tote board in the House chamber that records the “ayes” and “nays.”

Yes, it’s timid (providing political cover), but it’s also a good sign and a good start for Illinois. The synopsis of the bill is:

Creates the Medical Cannabis Act. Provides that a person who has been diagnosed by a physician as having a debilitating medical condition and the person’s primary caregiver may be issued a registry identification card by the Department of Human Services that permits the person or the person’s primary caregiver to legally possess no more than 6 Cannabis Sativa plants and one ounce of usable cannabis. Provides that a person who possesses a registry identification card is not subject to arrest, prosecution, or penalty in any manner, or denial of any right or privilege, including civil penalty or disciplinary action by a professional licensing board, for the medical use of cannabis; provided that the qualifying patient or primary caregiver possesses an amount of cannabis that does not exceed 6 Cannabis Sativa plants and one ounce of usable cannabis. Amends the Cannabis Control Act to make conforming changes consistent with the Medical Cannabis Act. Effective immediately.

More information available at IDEAL – Illinois Drug Education and Legislative Reform.

Can Kucinich Count Cause Candid Kerry Communication?

LastOneSpeaks has another outstanding post on the Kucinich/Kerry question for drug policy reformers.

There’s plenty of time to close ranks behind the nominee when the fight is against Bush. For now backing this losing candidate [Kucinich] could win some respect for a progressive agenda and drug policy reform.

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When it comes to Kerry, she also notes:

Now that it seems apparent that Kerry’s got the nomination sewn up, it’s more important than ever to support Kucinich in order to get the DNC’s attention. Kerry is not taking the issue nor the reformers seriously as evidenced by such conduct as consigning the most active thread on his Internet Forum, a discussion on drug policy, to the limbo of the “other” category instead of giving it a prominent place on the first page and he has ignored the request for his written position on agricultural hemp made by Vote Hemp, unconcerned that it cost him a good rating from the organization . We addressed his Beers problem earlier.

To that I’ll add that Kerry not only ignored the request from Vote-hemp, but actually publicly promised to respond and then failed to do so. While some would prefer to have seen an “Incomplete” than an “F” by Vote-Hemp, as someone who teaches in college I know there is a point in a student’s neglect when an incomplete grade defaults to an “F.” However, Senator, there’s always the appeal for a grade change. I’d really like to see what you have to say. (Just don’t tell my students that I’m easy.)
When it comes to surveys, Kerry seems to be keeping his views close. For years, Project Vote-Smart has been putting together the National Political Awareness Test for candidates at all levels. This is a survey that candidates can use with specific choices, or avoid pre-programmed choices and put in their own issue statements.
This year’s survey has some excellent questions regarding the drug war (among many other areas the survey covers)
Candidates are asked whether they would support the following policy initiatives (or they can propose their own):

Support mandatory jail sentences for selling illegal drugs.
Expand federally sponsored drug education and drug treatment programs.
Decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Allow doctors to prescribe marijuana to their patients for medicinal purposes.
Increase border security to stop the flow of illegal drugs into the U.S.
Eliminate federal funding for programs associated with the “war on drugs.”
Other or expanded principles

Unfortunately Kerry (along with Dean and Bush) has not responded (see my chart comparing candidate responses).
According to Vote-Smart:

Senator John Forbes Kerry refused to provide any responses to citizens on issues through the National Political Awareness Test. Senator John Forbes Kerry refused to provide this information when asked to do so on 23 separate occasions by: MSNBC; CBS News; Cox Newspapers; Knight Ridder; National Journal; MTV; New Hampshire Public Broadcasting; Tucson Citizen; St. Paul Pioneer Press; Portsmouth Herald; Nashua Telegraph; Iowa Public Radio; Ames Daily Tribune; Cedar Rapids Gazette; Iowa City Press; The State (SC); WYY Philadelphia; San Jose Mercury News; Geraldine Ferraro, Former Democratic Congresswoman; Michael Dukakis, Fomer Democratic Congressman; Bill Frenzel, Former Republican Congressman; Jim Leach, Republican Congressman; Richard Kimball, Project Vote Smart Presiden

There’s still time. Kerry can speak up. But we need to continue to apply the pressure. And one of the ways is by continuing to support Kucinich.
Oh, and don’t forget. Republicans should go to the primaries as well and write in Blake Ashby. You should at least make Karl Rove have to go look him up.