Time flies – it was 25 years ago on Friday voters in the US state of California gave the green light for medical cannabis.
California’s Compassionate Use Act of 1996, Prop. 215, was the first law to legalize the personal use and cultivation of marijuana for medical purposes since prohibition took effect in the United States. The state’s voters approved Prop. 215 with 5,382,915 (55.6%) votes in favor and 4,301,960 (44.4%) against.
The Act protected patients and defined caregivers possessing or cultivating marijuana recommended by a physician from laws that would otherwise see them prosecuted. It also forbid the punishing of physicians recommending the use of medical marijuana.
This occurred in the face of federal prohibition still applying – and while raids and prosecutions from the feds continued for some years, in March 2009 federal officials announced that they would no longer attempt to interfere with medical marijuana distribution/use in the state.
Where California went, other states followed – albeit very slowly for the next two decades. But today the majority of states have programs in place, albeit with varying levels of restrictions.
Reflecting on California’s contribution to the evolution of medical marijuana in the USA, NORML states:
“Arguably, none of these political, cultural, and scientific advancements would have been possible without the success of California’s 1996 campaign and the efforts of those activists who worked so hard for the law’s passage a quarter of a century ago.”
Observing the 25th anniversary, NORML organised an event on Friday at the General’s Residence at Fort Mason, San Francisco with various speakers and memorials to those advocates, patients and doctors persecuted prior to the passing of the Act, or who have since passed away.
Under California’s Health and Safety Code, a medical marijuana card holder or one possessing a doctor’s recommendation can have up to eight ounces of dried plant material, plus six mature or 12 immature plants. Patients with a medical cannabis card are exempt from paying sales and use tax that applies to recreational marijuana, can possess more and grow more plants at home.