In short: Asked about medical marijuana as he campaigned for president in 1999, George W. Bush said he believes “each state can choose that decision as they so choose” (sic). Yet the Bush administration has arrested, prosecuted, and imprisoned medical marijuana patients and providers at an alarming rate. Administration officials have aggressively campaigned against local and state proposals to protect medical marijuana patients.
What Bush has done: The Bush administration has conducted an unrelenting assault on medical marijuana dispensaries in California and attempted to undercut Proposition 215, the ballot initiative approved by Californians in 1996 that allows legal access to medical marijuana. Dozens of patients and providers have been arrested or seen their homes raided, and other medical marijuana distributors have shut down out of fear of federal attacks. In October 2002, Bryan Epis became the first person convicted of federal marijuana charges stemming from his work as a medical marijuana patient and provider, and he is now serving a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence. Other Bush administration actions include the September 2002 raid on the Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana — during which a disabled woman was held at gunpoint and handcuffed to a bed — and the January 2003 conviction of Ed Rosenthal, who grew medical marijuana at the request of the city of Oakland, but who was not allowed to discuss the medical aspects of his case in court.
Bush’s drug czar, John Walters, is an anti-marijuana zealot who has compared medical marijuana to “medicinal crack.”
What Bush has said: October 16, 1999: While campaigning in Seattle, Bush was asked by a reporter if he supported a state’s right to allow legal access to medical marijuana. Bush’s response surprised many: “I believe each state can choose that decision as they so choose” (sic). (The full story is available here.) Bush aides later clarified that he does not support legalizing medical marijuana. Bush also told reporters that a law protecting medical marijuana patients was “not going to happen in Texas.”
Bush has not spoken about medical marijuana since taking office as president.