Medicinal Cannabis in the USA

26 11 2008

medusaAs of 2008, thirteen states have passed laws allowing the medicinal use of cannabis.
In most cases, the changes in state law were made through ballot initiatives – where voters can petition proposed law changes to be included on state and local ballots, allowing the public to vote for or against them.

Interestingly, where figures on such ballot initiatives are available, they show that laws in favour of medicinal cannabis laws are approved by more voters and receive a greater percentage of the vote than any successful Presidential candidate in recent memory!


  • November 1998 – approved by 58% of voters
  • Became law on March 4, 1999
  • Legalised possession, cultivation and use of cannabis for patients who have received a certificate from a doctor confirming they can benefit from the medical use of cannabis.


  • November 5, 1996 – 56% of voters approved Proposition 215, also called the Compassionate Use Act.
  • The law removes state-level criminal penalties on the use, possession and cultivation of marijuana by patients who possess a “written or oral recommendation” from their physician that he or she “would benefit from medical marijuana.”


  • November 2000 – 54% of voters approved Amendment 20, which amends the Colorado State constitution to allow the medical use of marijuana.


  • March 2000 – Hawaii Senate passed Senate Bill 862 by a 13-12 vote.
  • Became law on June 14, 2000.
  • Patients can possess a maximum of 1 ounce of usable marijuana and a maximum of 7 plants.


  • November 2, 1999 – 62% of voters approved Question 2
  • Question 2 became law April 2, 2002
  • Allows patients or their primary physicians to possess a maximum of 2.5oz  (70g) of usable marijuana and a maximum of 6 plants.


  • 2003 – Maryland legislature passed “medical marijuana affirmative defence law.”
  • If someone is being prosecuted by the state on certain marijuana-related charges, then the court is required by law to consider a defendant’s medical necessity.


  • November 4 2008 – Michigan voters passed a measure allowing the use of medicinal marijuana for patients with debilitating medical conditions.
  • Also required Michigan’s health department to create a registry of qualified patients. Growing marijuana was also approved, for registered individuals using secure facilities


  • November 2, 2004 – voters approved Initiative 148
  • Eliminates criminal sanctions at the state level for medical marijuana authorized by a patient’s physician., allowing possession of up to 6 plants.


  • November 7, 2000 – voters approved Question 9, amending the state constitution to allow for medical marijuana.
  • Patients may possess a maximum of 1oz (28g) of usable marijuana and grow a maximum of 7 plants

New Mexico

  • April 2, 2007 – New Mexico’s Governor approved Senate Bill 523, which legalised medical marijuana for patients authorized by the state.


  • November 1998 – voters approved the state’s Medical Marijuana Act.

Rhode Island

  • January 3, 2006 – voters approved the state’s Medical Marijuana Act, which legalised medical marijuana at the state level.
  • Patients can possess a maximum of 2.5oz (70g) of marijuana and a maximum of 12 plants


  • November 1998 – voters approved Initiative 692, which legalised the use, possession and cultivation of cannabis for patients with a medical certificate.
  • Patients prescribed medical marijuana may possess a 60 day supply.


  • July 1, 2004 – Senate Bill 76 went into effect, which legalised medical marijuana at the state level.
  • Senate Bill 76 became law May 26, 2004
  • Patients or their primary doctor are allowed to possess a maximum of 2oz (56g) of usable marijuana and a maximum of 3 plants.

Some other interesting facts:

  1. Cannabis was listed in the United States Pharmacopoeia from 1850 until 1942.
  2. Under federal law, cannabis remains illegal throughout the United States and is not approved for prescription as medicine.
  3. The United States Supreme Court has ruled that the federal government has the right to regulate and criminalize marijuana, including in the 13 states listed above, even when the cannabis in question is being used for medical purposes.
  4. The United States federal government does not currently recognize any legitimate medical use, although there are currently seven patients across the entire USA who are permitted by Federal law to receive medicinal cannabis for various illnesses (through the Compassionate Investigational New Drug program that was closed to new patients in 1991 by the George H. W. Bush administration).
  5. In 1988, Francis L. Young, an administrative law judge with the United States Drug Enforcement Agency, declared that “in its natural form, [cannabis] is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known.”
  6. However, “smoked” cannabis is still not approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration.



2 responses

26 11 2008

Did you know the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services got a patent for “cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants” in 2003? See:

Yet, the Fed still persecutes legal medical marijuana patients. Another reason we need NATIONAL ballot initiatives. The most evolved project for national ballot initiatives is led by former Sen. Mike Gravel. Registered voters can now vote to ratify the National Initiative for Democracy at, much as citizens ratified the Constitution at the Conventions when the Legislatures wouldn’t!

12 05 2016

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