Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)

In Short

Sen. McCain has changed his position from protecting states’ rights in regard to medical marijuana to publicly stating that he does not support ending the federal raids on state medical marijuana patients and caregivers.

What Sen. McCain Has Done:

Sen. McCain has neither cosponsored nor voted on any legislation specifically addressing medical marijuana.

What Sen. McCain Has Said:

When Sen. McCain gave his official campaign announcement speech on April 25, 2007, at Veteran’s Park in Manchester, New Hampshire, he was asked if he would end the federal raids on medical marijuana patients. Sen. McCain answered, “I will let states decide that issue.”

On July 14, 2007, Sen. McCain held a town hall meeting at which he was asked about his stance on medical marijuana. When asked in April about ending the medical marijuana raids, McCain had responded, “I will let states decide that issue.” But this time, when GSMM asked if he still supported ending the raids, he went into headlong retreat: “Not yet. I have not been into the issue since you and I talked. Let me make sure I have your name and address and I will give you a call or drop you a note on it. I have not, look, there is a divided medical thought this. You cite all of those that say it is very beneficial, there’s an equal body that says it is not. And I believe that there is some possibility that quote “medical marijuana” could spread into other areas and that the definition of medical could expand rather dramatically. You’ve seen that in other cases. So, I will be glad to continue to examine it, but I don’t think marijuana is healthy, I don’t think that it is good for people, and I also, there is a large body of medical opinion that says there is plenty of other medications that are more effective and better and less damaging to one’s health to use to relieve pain. So I will continue to look at it on your behalf and many other young people who feel very strongly about it, but right now my answer to you is no.”

Sen. John McCain Flip-flopping on Medical Marijuana 7-14-07

At an August 9 town hall meeting in Merrimack, New Hampshire, a GSMM volunteer asked Sen. McCain, “Seventy percent of New Hampshire voters and 74% of doctors believe the federal government should stop raiding and arresting the seriously ill who use medical marijuana with their doctors’ approval. Do you disagree with 70% of New Hampshire voters and 74% of doctors?”

Senator John McCain on Medical Marijuana 8-9-07

Sen. McCain attempted to deflect the question, first turning to a local sheriff in attendance at the meeting and asking, “What do you say, sheriff?”

When the sheriff responded, “Mark me down as undecided,” Sen. McCain continued, “The sheriff said, ‘Mark me down as undecided.’ Thanks for the help, thanks a lot. It is my view — and I thank you for your opinion — this is a big issue in the state because it has come up many times … I think there’s other ways to relieve pain. I am not sure I would send — I would ask the sheriff what his priorities are as far as law enforcement because they are the ones required to do it, but I do not believe in in legalizing it because I think there’s other ways of relieving pain and applying medical help than that, and that’s my position.”

On August 11, at a house party in Milton, New Hampshire, a clinical nutritionist who works with cancer patients told Sen. McCain that she has seen cancer patients benefit from medical marijuana, because it allows them to maintain their weight and continue lifesaving treatments. She cited a June 2005 poll that found that 74% of doctors disagree with the statement that “the federal government should be able prosecute those who use, grow, or obtain marijuana prescribed or recommended by their doctor for chronic pain within the guidelines of state law,” as well as the 2005 Gallup poll that found that 78% of Americans support “making marijuana legally available for doctors to prescribe in order to reduce pain and suffering.” She asked Sen. McCain, “Can you articulate a reason why you would disagree with the medical professionals and the American voters and continue arresting and raiding in those 12 states?”

Sen. McCain responded, “Well, first of all, I would disagree with your statistics that you just quoted. I would strongly disagree, and I’ll be glad to give you my statistics which is that most — the official position of the American Medical Association and the majority of medical practitioners believe that there are far more effective ways to relieve pain and suffering. So, I will be glad to provide you with my statistics and I would be glad to receive yours. I believe that marijuana is a gateway drug. That is my view and that’s the view of the federal drug czar and other experts, although that is also a debatable question. I think that there is much more effective ways of relieving pain and suffering than the use of marijuana, and so therefore I view it as something that I do not support. That’s just my considered opinion, I’d be glad to receive additional information. It’s interesting to me how this issue comes up at every town hall meeting … I’ll be glad to get your statistics, but my position is I do not support the use of marijuana for medical purposes, I believe there are other ways of relieving that pain and suffering, and I’ll be glad to send you the American Medical Associations paper on it, the one that I have as well. Thank you, and I’m sorry we disagree.”

Moments later, GSMM staffers asked a follow-up question, explaining to Sen. McCain that the American Medical Association’s position paper on medical marijuana endorses further clinical research for medical marijuana. GSMM asked if he was in favor of further research, to which he responded: “Stu, I would agree with the American Medical Association, that is why they are what they are. I would agree with them, and right now they don’t think its necessary for the same reasons … But I am glad to hear your views and I am glad to hear your input, but we are obviously at an impasse on this issue. I will be glad to look at — I would be more than happy to look at the American Medical Association’s view of it. I’ve never claimed to be an expert on the use of marijuana, and so I would be glad to look at it. And one thing I’m confident of is that the next town hall meeting this issue is going to come up again, and so I will get even smarter on it.”

During a house party in Exeter on September 29, GSMM volunteer Jon Perri asked Sen. McCain if he would arrest and imprison the seriously ill who use medical marijuana in the 12 states where it has been made legal. Sen. McCain responded, “Sir, no town hall meeting in New Hampshire is complete without some young man who has been sent here to talk to me about medical marijuana … The answer, of course, is no, but the fact is I do not approve of the medical use of marijuana, I never have and I never will, and you all keep coming to the town hall meetings. I’m always glad to see you, it helps with the attendance. And keep asking me the question. In 1999, at one of my first town hall meetings, a young person stood up and said, ‘What do you think about hemp?’ And I said, ‘Boy it’s great, you make ropes out of it, it’s a great idea.’ I didn’t know that we were talking about a different use for hemp then the one that I had in mind, and literally every town hall meeting I have someone come who has a cause, and your cause I respect. In all honesty — please don’t think that I’m trying to diminish your presence here and your advocacy for what you believe in, and if I offended you I apologize. You have every right to ask your question like everyone else does at a town hall meeting ,and I will continue to answer. Thank you for your commitment, I’m sorry we have a fundamental disagreement.”

The next day, at a town hall meeting in Derry, seriously ill New Hampshire resident and GSMM volunteer Linda Macia asked Sen. McCain if he would end the federal raids on patients like herself. Sen. McCain responded, “Well first of all, you will have to show me a case where people are going in and arresting people who are dead and dying. You’ll have to document that for me because I haven’t heard of such a case, nor has anyone I know heard of such a case, so it must be a very well-kept secret, because we don’t arrest people who are dead and dying. Again, you will have to document that for me, that’s not the kind of society we live in and I would strongly disapprove of it. You may be one of the unique cases in America that only medical marijuana can relieve pain. Every medical expert I know of, including the AMA, says that there are much more effective and much better treatment for pain then medical marijuana. So, I’d be glad to continue this debate. Every town hall meeting I have, someone shows up and advocates for medical marijuana, and by the way, in all due respect, alleges that we are arresting the dead and dying and I still have not seen any evidence of that and again, I would be glad to accept that evidence from you, and if they are arresting dying people then I would be glad to do everything in my power to stop it, but I still would not support medical marijuana because I don’t think the preponderance of medical opinion in America agrees with your assertion that its the most effective way of treating pain. And I would be glad to discuss it with you and receive the information you have.”

On October 23, at a town hall event in Exeter, GSMM staff asked Sen. McCain, “Voters and legislators in 12 states have passed laws protecting the seriously ill who use medical marijuana with their doctors’ approval. George Bush’s current federal policy is to have armed DEA agents raid and arrest these citizens. In fact, just recently one of Gov. Richardson’s medical marijuana patients, Leonard French, a 44-year-old paraplegic, had armed DEA agents come into his house, put a gun to his head, handcuff him to his wheelchair … The last time I asked you this question, you said you would oppose medical marijuana legalization at the federal level.”

Sen. McCain interrupted, “I still do.”

The GSMM staff member continued on, “Okay, sir, that’s fine, but it wasn’t my question and it never was. At the last town hall meeting, you said if people are being raided, you would do everything in your power to put those raids to an end. Now that you know the raids are occurring, your staff has received evidence proving that, will you stand by your word and end the federal raids on medical marijuana patients?”

Sen. McCain responded, “I have no evidence that’s the case except your word.”

The GSMM staffer then drew attention to a letter from New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D) to President Bush, asking him to end the federal raids on patients, saying, “I have a letter from Bill Richardson talking about how his patients were raided.”

Sen. McCain responded, “I have great respect for Gov. Richardson. Great respect, but I don’t believe it … The law is the law, and I do not believe it’s going to be changed, and it’s not going to be changed by me. And you can keep coming to town hall meetings if you want to and ask this question in different ways, and I will be glad to respond in the same way.”

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