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Mr. Obama also has infuriated marijuana advocates, who are dazed and confused about the administration’s continued adamant stand against marijuana legalization, even as a number of states and the District of Columbia have opened the door to the licensed use of pot for medicinal purposes.

“There is no doubt that he has been the worst president by far for medical marijuana and respecting states’ rights — in terms of their own medical marijuana laws, which is strange because he has had personal experience with marijuana and seemed not to have as much of an ideological problem with the idea of marijuana as a medicine,” said Morgan Fox of the Marijuana Policy Project.

Romney challenged

Meanwhile, it appears that Mr. Romney wants to avoid taking a clear stand on the issue. In an interview with a Colorado television station, he mocked the reporter for asking about the issue, arguing it wasn’t as important as the economy. Asked about Mr. Romney’s stance on federal raids, Andrea Saul, his spokesman, wouldn’t answer directly, instead saying that the “governor opposes any marijuana legalization, federal or state.”

Said Mr. Fox, “People who are for marijuana-policy reform can hope that maybe [Mr. Romney] will respect states’ rights to the point where he will not use any Department of Justice or federal resources to try to interfere with state law on this matter, but I’m not sure you can really count on his loyalty to the idea of states’ rights.”

On a critical legal issue, it is the Republican challenger who is seeking federal action that would trump state preferences.

Mr. Romney also has argued that “America needs national tort reform” — putting him on the opposite side of the issue from conservative Republicans, such as Virginia Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli, who has vowed to file suit in federal court against a federal tort reform bill if it becomes law.

Mr. Cuccinelli declined to comment for this article, but, in an Op-Ed column that appeared in The Washington Post last year, he criticized the five Republican senators who had endorsed a bill that would give the federal government the power to dictate how state judges try medical-malpractice cases and to cap what state courts may award.

“It is frustrating how ‘broadly’ some senators interpret the powers of the federal government when they are pursuing a favored policy, and how ‘limited’ those same powers are seen to be when it is the other guy’s proposal violating the Constitution,” Mr. Cuccinelli said.

But invoking a familiar argument, Mr. Romney has said that the current patchwork of state tort laws has proven confusing and inefficient, and has left businesses exposed to the vagaries of differing state laws and standards.

“You know what state-level tort reform means,” he said in one 2007 address cited on his campaign website. “It means that as long as there is one lawsuit-friendly state, they can sue almost any major, deep-pocketed company in America. No thanks, America needs national tort reform.”