The Marijuana Policy Project has issued its final grades for the Democratic presidential candidates, based on the positions they have taken (or refused to take) regarding the medical use of cannabis. John Edwards, Richard Gephardt, and Joe Lieberman all got F's because they repeatedly dodged the issue. Howard Dean, who opposed a medical marijuana bill when he was governor of Vermont, fared only slightly better, earning a D-. It seems to me he deserves a higher grade, a C at least.
Judging from the statements collected by MPP, Dean has consistently taken the position that marijuana should be treated like any other medicine, passing muster with the FDA before it can be legally used. At the same time, he has consistently condemned the federal government's raids on medical marijuana users in California and other states that recognize the drug as a medicine. In other words, medical marijuana should not be legalized at the federal level until the FDA approves, but in the mean time the DEA should leave cancer and AIDS patients alone.
Obviously, one can disagree with this position, starting with the premise that the federal government has the authority to tell people what plants they may grow and ingest (for whatever reason). And Dean's stance is not exactly courageous. But it strikes me as sincere, given his technocratic tendencies, and it is certainly preferable to the aggressive posture taken by the Bush and Clinton administrations. In practice, it would allow states to go their own way on this issue even if marijuana remained completely forbidden under federal law.