California's Proposition 215 was the first statewide
medical marijuana voter initiative adopted in the USA.
It's the law. Cannabis (marijuana) was listed in medical texts to treat over
100 different conditions, prior to its ban in 1937 over the objections of the
AMA. Medical use is still allowed under the UN Single Convention Treaty on
Narcotic Drugs. The California Supreme Court has ruled that marijuana is as
legal as any prescription drug under State law.
Proposition 215 (HS 11362.5) was passed in 1996 by a 56% majority of
California voters in November 1996. That is more California votes than
Presidents Clinton, Bush or most other elected official have received.
The National Academy of Science did a scientific review in 1999 for the
federal Office of Narcotics Control Policy and documented legitimate medical
uses for cannabis, but the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) still forbids
its use. Meanwhile, the US government gives cannabis to seven patients in the
Compassionate IND (Investigational New Drug) program. Eight states have
legalized medical marijuana and allow patients to obtain, use and cultivate the
herb. In May of 2001, the US Supreme Court ruled that state and federal laws do
not need to conform with each other, leaving patients in legal Limbo. Prop 215
and all other state medical marijuana laws remain in effect.
Other States have followed suit. Since its passage, voters in five
other states legalized medical marijuana through similar initiatives. These all
require a doctor's recommendation and include the right for patients to
cultivate marijuana for their own use. Two elections were undermined by
government officials and have not allowed the votes to be counted. See
explanation below for more details.
California, 1996, 56% yes vote on Prop 215 to add 11362.5 to the
Health and Safety Code, legalizing medical marijuana for seriously ill patients.
Arizona passed Prop 200 by an even higher 65% majority. That law moved
all drugs to a situation that would allow doctors to recommend them. The state
legislature repealed the popular election vote, and voters promptly put it back
onto the ballot as a referendum for 1998. It won there again in 1998, and voters
in Alaska, Washington, Oregon,Nevada and Maine
also legalized medical use of marijuana through the initiative process.
Voters in Colorado and Washington DC were both deprived of
their right to be counted. In Colorado it was a voter's registrar's
administrative decision to discount voter petitions, and in Washington DC it
took an act of Congress by the Republican dominated House to forbid that the
votes be counted. Exit polls in both areas showed healthy margins of victory for
medical marijuana. Colorado voters finally had their say in 2000 and approved
the reform. Apparently, the Drug War is not healthy for democracy.
The Hawaii legislature has also legalized medical marijuana.
Legislatures of more than 30 states have approved medical marijuana laws at some
point during the past 30 years. Among its federal advocates was the notoriously
conservative GOP Congressman Newt Gingrich.
Section 11362.5 of the State Health and Safety Code
The text of the Prop 215 initiative follows:
Section 1. Section 11362.5 is added to the California Health and Safety Code,
11362.5. (a) This section shall be known and may be cited as the
Compassionate Use Act of 1996.
(b) (1) The people of the State of California hereby find and declare that
the purposes of the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 are as follows:
(A) To ensure that seriously ill Californians have the right to obtain
and use marijuana for medical purposes where that medical use is deemed
appropriate and has been recommended by a physician who has determined
that the persons health would benefit from the use of marijuana in the
treatment of cancer, anorexia, AIDS, chronic pain, spasticity, glaucoma,
arthritis, migraine or any other illness for which marijuana provides
(B) To ensure that patients and their primary caregivers who obtain and
use marijuana for medical purposes upon the recommendation of a physician
are not subject to criminal prosecution or sanction.
(C) To encourage the federal and state governments to implement a plan
for the safe and affordable distribution of marijuana to all patients in
medical need of marijuana.
(2) Nothing in this act shall be construed to supersede legislation
prohibiting persons from engaging in conduct that endangers others, nor to
condone the diversion of marijuana for non-medical purposes.
(c) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no physician in this state
shall be punished, or denied any right or privilege, for having recommended
marijuana to a patient for medical purposes.
(d) Section 11357, relating to the possession of marijuana, and Section
11358, relating to the cultivation of marijuana, shall not apply to a patient,
or to a patient's primary caregiver, who possesses or cultivates marijuana for
the personal medical purposes of the patient upon the written or oral
recommendation or approval of a physician.
(e) For the purposes of this section, Primary caregiver means the
individual designated by the person exempted under this act who has
consistently assumed responsibility for the housing, health or safety of that
Sec. 2. If any provision of this measure or the application thereof to any
person or circumstance is held invalid, that invalidity shall not affect other
provisions or applications of the measure which can be given effect without the
invalid provision or application, and to this end the provisions of this measure