Pubdate: Tue, 09 Apr 2002
Source: San Francisco Examiner (CA)
Copyright: 2002 San Francisco Examiner
Author: Tanya Pampalone
Cited: Marijuana Policy Project (


Just before Supervisor Mark Leno publicly praised Vermont's Gov. Howard 
Dean for his support of civil union legislation, he had a private message 
for the governor: Pot is important to the gay community, too.

Dean was in San Francisco on Monday meeting with local officials in an 
apparent effort to gain support for a planned presidential bid in 2004.

He met with Leno before accepting the certificate for his political work 
from the Board of Supervisors.

In the private meeting, Leno -- an openly gay man who authored the 
Department of Public Health's medical marijuana ID program -- urged the 
governor to support Vermont's medical marijuana legislation.

Dean has been an outspoken critic of the legislation in his state. The 
bill, which recently passed Vermont's house and is now in the state senate, 
would protect patients who use medicinal marijuana with a doctor's 
recommendation, a law similar to California's Proposition 215.

Because of the severe impact of AIDS on the gay community, many gay and 
lesbian groups have been strong supporters of medicinal marijuana, which 
reportedly alleviates nausea and stimulates the appetite of those seriously 
ill and using AIDS drugs.

Critics light into Dean

"You can't call yourself a friend of (the gay) community and be against 
medical marijuana," said Bruce Mirken, spokesman for the Washington, 
D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project .

"If somebody needs it, they shouldn't go to jail. That should not be a 
difficult issue."

Dean, who is a medical doctor, said he hasn't seen empirical evidence to 
support legalization for medical use of marijuana. He maintained that until 
the FDA has evaluated the drug, he doesn't think his state should pass the 
bill. He also said he doesn't see the connection with medical marijuana and 
gay rights.

"If (the medicinal marijuana bill) passes, it will apply to everybody," 
Dean said. "I can see the link with AIDS, with glaucoma, with cancer, but I 
don't see the specific link with gay and lesbian issues."

Leno draws the line

Though Leno has witnessed medicinal marijuana's benefits for friends sick 
with HIV and AIDS, including his deceased partner, he acknowledges that gay 
rights and medical marijuana are separate.

"The civil union bill is a matter of civil rights," he said, lauding Dean 
for his civil union support and other political stances. "Medical cannabis 
is a health issue."

But Mirken has trouble separating the two.

"I have many friends who would be dead today if they had done everything by 
the book, or if their doctor had done everything by the book," Mirken said. 
"When you are dealing with AIDS and cancer, you have to push the envelope."
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