GORE/BRADLEY: Is Gore In Favor Of Medical Marijuana?
Vice President Al Gore yesterday said that doctors "ought to have the option" to prescribe marijuana for suffering patients, the Washington Post reports. During a town hall meeting in New Hampshire last night, Gore stated, "Where the alleviation of pain in medical situations is concerned, we have not given doctors enough flexibility to help patients who are going through acute pain." Speaking with reporters after the appearance, Gore backpedalled, stressing his opposition to the legalization of marijuana and advocating more research into the issue. "If the research shows that there are circumstances in which there is no alternative for alleviating pain that doctors believe can be alleviated through the use of medical marijuana, then under certain limited medical circumstances -- if the research validates that choice -- then it should be allowed," he said, adding, "We are not at that point." Dan Viets, chair of the pro-legalization group NORML, was buoyed by Gore's remarks and expressed hope that the announcement would persuade Democratic challenger Bill Bradley and the Republican presidential contenders to consider the issue. A Bradley spokesperson said that the former senator "is open to new research findings, but for now does not believe it should be legal for medical reasons." In the past, Gore has adamantly opposed legalizing marijuana for any reason, writing in a 1997 letter to NORML, "Marijuana is not harmless or beneficial, in fact, it is more carcinogenic than tobacco; it impairs short-term memory, concentration, and coordination; and it damages brain functions, the immune system and the lungs" (Connolly/Edsall, Washington Post, 12/15).
In other Gore news, with the important New Hampshire Democratic primary less than three months away, Gore and Bradley continued to assail each other's policies. Speaking to a group of health care providers at the Southern New Hampshire Medical Center, Gore again outlined the difference between his health care plan and Bradley's. Although both men support universal coverage, Gore charges that Bradley's plan would come with a hefty pricetag and would not cover any more people that his own plan. "Sen. Bradley's plan falls short of what I think the American people deserve," Gore said. Indicating that he would never criticize Bradley personally, Gore said, "He's a good man with a bad plan." Bradley, mounting a counterattack on Gore's charges, fired back. Although he apologized for recent campaign mailers that accused Gore of lying about his plan, Bradley said, "I'm saying he's misrepresenting the plan itself" (DiStaso, Manchester Union Leader, 12/15). This weekend, Bradley said that Gore's incremental plan is not bold enough and "tinker[s] around the edges of big problems." Bradley called Gore's questioning of his commitment to Medicare and Medicaid "dismaying." Speaking on ABC's "Good Morning America" yesterday, Bradley said, "People are fed up with politicians who know the truth but only tell a part of it." Bradley supporter Rep. George Miller (D-CA) said of Gore, "He is going to try to scare people, and he is going to deliberately misrepresent Bradley's plan. That's the cornerstone of their campaign" (Zuckman, Boston Globe, 12/15).
A Boost in the Polls
Gore has pulled ahead of Bradley among New York voters, although the two candidates remain in a "statistical dead heat." A Quinnipiac poll released yesterday shows that Gore now leads Bradley, 42% to 39%. A similar poll taken in November had Bradley leading Gore 47% to 38%. The poll of 1,211 voters taken between Dec. 7-12 has a margin of error of +/-2.8%. The poll shows that New York would go to the Democrat in the general election, with Gore beating GOP frontrunner George W. Bush, 47% to 39%, and Bradley winning 50% to 35% over the Texas governor (Reuters/Los Angeles Times, 12/15).