California's Proposition 215 was the first
statewide medical marijuana initiative to pass in the USA (1996).

It's still the law. Cannabis (marijuana) was listed in medical texts to treat over 100 different health 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 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.

Map of states that have legalized medical marijuana cultivation and use.

All States: Medical marijuana laws

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 The state legislature repealed the popular election vote, and voters promptly put it back onto the ballot as a referendum for 1998.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 and Nevada also legalized medical use of marijuana through the initiative process.

Since this map was prepared, Maine voters legalized medical marijuana, as did the Hawaii legislature. Colorado will vote on the issue again in November, 2000. A broader medical marijuana law is also included in Alaska's Prop 5, which is on the November ballot, as well.

Voters in Colorado and Washington DC were both deprived of thier right to be counted. In Colorado it was a voter's registrar's adminitstrative 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. Apparently, the Drug War is not healthy for democracy.

Who says you can't change the world?

Chris Conrad & his wife Mikki Norris at their California home in 1996

Community Action Coordinators for the 1996 California medical marijuana initiative

California Proposition 215

Passed by 56% of California voters in November 1996

(More California votes than President Clinton or any other elected official got)

Now 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, to read:

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 relief.

(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 person.

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 are severable.

Local medical marijuana garden guidelines

These guidelines are not legally binding limits, they are the threshold level for a patient with a bona fide recommendation to be presumed in compliance with California Health and Safety Code HS 11362.5 (Prop 215).

For an updated listing of local medical marijuana possession and garden guidelines and an examination of relevant scientific data, go to http://www.safeaccessnow.net/

Safe Access Now

Safe Access Now is a community based ad hoc coalition to have the Sonoma County guidelines adopted throughout the State of California. If you would like more information or to become engaged in this process, contact Ralph Sherrow at Safe Access Now.

Safe Access Now: Medical Marijuana Guidelines