Name: Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH)

In short: On May 29, 2003, Kucinich was quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle as supporting medical marijuana “without reservation” and indicated that as president he would be willing to sign an executive order permitting its use. (You can read the full text of the article here.) This is on the heels of his May 27 announcement calling for a broad rethinking of anti-drug policies, emphasizing treatment over criminalization. On May 1, Kucinich signed on as cosponsor of the positive Truth in Trials Act. He has come full circle on the subject, having voted for the 1998 resolution condemning state medical marijuana initiatives.

What Kucinich has done*: Kucinich was the first Democratic presidential candidate to come out in favor of medical marijuana in May 2003. On July 23, 2003, Kucinich voted for the Hinchey/Rohrabacher amendment to the Commerce-Justice-State appropriations bill that would have barred the Justice Department, including the Drug Enforcement Administration, from spending any money to raid or arrest medical marijuana patients and providers in the states that have eliminated or reduced penalties for medical use of marijuana.

On May 1, 2003, Kucinich became the first of the announced presidential candidates serving in Congress to cosponsor positive medical marijuana legislation: H.R. 1717, the Truth in Trials Act. This measure would remove the federal gag on medical marijuana defendants, allowing federal defendants to present evidence about the medical aspects of their marijuana-related activity. It would keep them from being sent to federal prison if it were determined that they were acting in compliance with state medical marijuana laws.

In 1998, Kucinich voted for H.J.Res. 117, a resolution opposing efforts to legalize marijuana or other Schedule I drugs for medical use. The resolution condemned “efforts to circumvent” the Food and Drug Administration’s drug-approval process via state medical marijuana laws, and it contained language suggesting that medical marijuana laws add to “ambiguous cultural messages about marijuana use [that] are contributing to a growing acceptance of marijuana use among children and teenagers.” The resolution passed by a vote of 310-93.

What Kucinich has said: Kucinich bolstered his previous strong public statement on July 22, 2003 with an impassioned speech urging his colleagues’ support for an amendment to an appropriations bill that would have barred the Justice Department, including the Drug Enforcement Administration, from spending any money to raid or arrest medical marijuana patients and providers in the states that have eliminated or reduced penalties for medical use of marijuana. Rep. Kucinich added the mention of his floor speech to his campaign newsletter, saying “He spoke out on the House floor, as he has on the campaign, for an amendment to stop Attorney General Ashcroft’s crusade against patients who use medical marijuana to alleviate their suffering in the 10 states that allow it.”

From the San Francisco Chronicle, May 29, 2003: “Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio became the first Democratic presidential candidate to endorse the legalization of medical marijuana when he told The Chronicle on Wednesday it should be available ‘to any patient who needs it to alleviate pain and suffering,’ regardless of the current federal drug laws. ‘Compassion requires that medical marijuana be available’ Kucinich said during a telephone interview after a campaign stop in Cupertino. ‘We must have health-care systems which are compassionate … so I support it without reservation.’ (You can read the full text of the article here.)

“Kucinich said that as president, ‘I’d sign an executive order that would permit its use.'”

*All current members of the House and Senate running for president have voted for District of Columbia appropriations bills that included anti-medical marijuana provisions, but there was never a separate vote on any such amendment.

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