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  HELENA - None of the five major political party candidates for governor supports legalizing marijuana, and most are against legalizing marijuana used for medical purposes.

  However, Democrat Mark O’Keefe said if the Legislature approves the bill, he would sign a law legalizing marijuana used for medical purposes only, provided it’s prescribed by a doctor, dispensed by a pharmacist and administered in a medical facility.

  Lawrence Turk, a registered nurse from Missoula, asked this two-part question of the candidates:

"What is your position on legalizing medical marijuana. What is your position on decriminalizing marijuana for all users?"

  Here are the candidates’ answers:

  -Democrat Mike Cooney, secretary of state: "I do not support decriminalization of marijuana for all users. While I will not propose legalizing medical marijuana, I will keep an open mind on the subject should the legislature decide to pursue this issue while I am governor. In my view, this is an issue decided best by scientists and physicians and should the Legislature choose to consider Legislation in this regard I will insist that they use the best science available to reach their ultimate conclusion."

  -Republican Judy Martz, lieutenant governor: "I cannot support legalizing medical marijuana. Not only is the medical community deeply divided on the medical merits of the drug, the U.S. Department of Justice is challenging laws from five states that have approved use of medical marijuana. Furthermore, I cannot support the decriminalization of marijuana, and in fact will work tirelessly to battle drug abuse and addiction. At a time when marijuana use is on the rise among teen-agers, we need leaders who will wage aggressive efforts against recreational drug use, especially against drugs that often serve as a gateway to more illicit drug use and addiction."

  -Democrat Joe Mazurek, attorney general: "As attorney general, I’ve seen the devastating effect of drugs on all sectors of our society. They contribute to family problems, school problems, and, of course, to our problems with crime. I’ve been proud to support drug and alcohol education and prevention efforts in Montana communities. I do not support the legalization of marijuana for any purposes."

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  -Republican Rob Natelson, University of Montana law professor: "Marijuana possession, sale and use is illegal under federal law. Certainly I am sympathetic toward the perceived need some patients feel for prescription marijuana. But there is also well-placed concern that ’medical marijuana’ exception can become a facade for evading federal drug laws. Moreover, many knowledgeable people see marijuana as a ’gateway’ toward nastier drugs. So the federal government has blocked state ’medical marijuana’ laws wherever they have been passed. The legalization of marijuana for any purposes."

  -Democrat O’Keefe, state auditor: "I am opposed to decriminalizing marijuana. Marijuana is a gateway drug and should not be available to the public. I would sign a bill to legalize medical marijuana if prescribed by a physician, dispensed by a licensed pharmacist and administered in a medical facility. It should be treated just like any other controlled substance used to control pain or treat a medical condition."

Note: To ask questions of candidates for governor, readers may send them to the Lee Newspapers State Bureau, P.O. Box 1676, Helena, Mont. 59601, or fax them to 406-443-0034, or e-mail them to: csjohnson@uswest.net.

Saturday, April 22, 2000

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