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Dems on Drugs: Any Questions?

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Last week's youth-oriented CNN Democratic candidate forum, "America Rocks the Vote," was forgettable for many reasons -- except for the admissions by three candidates that they had, in the past, inhaled. Democratic hopefuls Howard Dean, John Edwards, and John Kerry each admitted they'd used marijuana in the past, in response to an e-mailed question posed to the candidates. But those confessions don't necessarily reflect any progressive political positions regarding either medical marijuana or decriminalization. Only Kerry has spoken publicly in favor of medical marijuana for seriously ill patients. As governor of Vermont, in 2002 Dean successfully opposed the passage of a law to legalize medical marijuana for qualified patients. And according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Edwards has said it would be "irresponsible" to ask the U.S. Department of Justice to cease arresting medical marijuana patients using the drug in compliance with state laws.

Conversely, Democratic candidate Dennis Kucinich said during the debate that although he'd never actually tried marijuana, if elected president, he'd seek decriminalization. Candidates Wesley Clark, Al Sharpton, and Joe Lieberman denied ever having tried a toke; Carol Moseley-Braun declined to answer the question.

NORML Executive Director Keith Stroup notes that Dean, Kerry, and Edwards are examples of folks who have smoked pot and lead successful lives. "The real question is not whether a candidate has smoked marijuana -- nearly half of the adult population ... admit that they have," he said, "but whether or not that candidate believes that otherwise law-abiding Americans should be arrested and jailed for engaging in the same behavior that they once did."

In other drug news, UT social work professor Lori Holleran has received a $622,465 Mentored Award from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to get further training and continue research on acculturation and drug prevention programs for minority youth. According to UT's press release, half of the funding will allow Holleran to receive "mentored training" from adolescent drug abuse experts; half will go to fund Holleran's research -- including the development of "prevention intervention" that addresses the needs of Mexican-American youth. "I am convinced that prevention is the way to go because it is better to intervene before serious problems arise, and treatment interventions tend to have limited success," she said. More research regarding the efficacy of prevention programs is needed, she said, specifically among high-risk youth outside of school settings. "There are just too many young people falling through the cracks."

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Weed Watch, presidential candidates, Howard Dean, John Kerry, John Edwards, Dennis Kucinich, medical marijuana, decriminalization, NORML, Lisa Holleran, National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIDA, prevention programs, at-risk youth, UT School of Social Work

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