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November 6, 1996
California, Arizona Voters Approve Initiatives In Favor Of Medical Marijuana
Voters in both California and
Arizona have approved initiatives endorsing marijuana's therapeutic
value and allowing patients to use marijuana for medical purposes
where its use has been deemed appropriate by a physician.
The result came despite heavy campaigning by opponents and
decades of anti-marijuana hysteria.
The passage of Proposition 215 in California and Proposition 200 in Arizona demonstrates that Americans can clearly distinguish between the use of marijuana as a medicine for serious ill patients and legalization for recreational use. It further shows that the country has reached a consensus on the former, even as it remains divided on the latter.
"This is a victory for medical marijuana as well as for patients and doctors," said NORML Deputy Director Allen St. Pierre. "It shows that Americans do not want the federal government to interfere with the relationship between a seriously ill patient and the recommendation of his or her physician."
Both state and nationwide polls taken prior to this election's vote have shown that a majority of Americans favor medical marijuana reform. The recent events in California and Arizona may finally push those on Capitol Hill to take a close and objective look at this issue. It may also encourage some of the 23 states that currently have laws regarding medical marijuana to modify their measures so that they can begin directly benefiting patients.
"These votes demonstrate that the public are ahead of the politicians when it comes to reforming our drug policies, specifically medical access to marijuana," said NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup. "Americans do not believe that denying medicine to the sick and dying should ever be a part of the drug war."
The California initiative says that "Patients or defined caregivers, who possess or cultivate marijuana for medical treatment recommended by a physician, are exempt from the general provisions of law which otherwise prohibit possession or cultivation of marijuana." It further provides that, "Physicians shall not be punished or denied any right or privilege for recommending marijuana to a patient for medical purposes." The Act does not supersede state legislation prohibiting persons from possessing or cultivating marijuana for non-medical purposes.
"Despite heavy opposition from federal politicians and law enforcement, the California medical marijuana initiative passed because individuals know by either their own personal experience or by the experiences of those around them that marijuana has medical utility," said St. Pierre. "The government has lost all credibility on this issue by claiming otherwise."
"With the passage of Proposition 215 in California, new legal protections will be put into place for patients who use marijuana under a doctor's order," said Dave Fratello of Californians for Medical Rights (CMR), one of the primary proponents of the measure. The group also announced that they will offer a toll-free number, 1 (888) YES-4-215, to explain how 215 works, and for whom it is and is not designed.
Proposition 200 in Arizona, known as the "Drug Medicalization, Prevention and Control Act," is broader than California's measure and would essentially "medicalize" Arizona's drug policy. The Act calls for mandatory, court supervised treatment and probation as an alternative to incarceration for non-violent drug users and provides expanded drug treatment programs. It will also allow doctors to prescribe controlled drugs such as marijuana to patients suffering from serious illnesses such as glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, cancer, and AIDS. Arizonans voted in favor of the initiative by a vote more than two to one.
"These votes give a flashing green light to the American public that they have the power to change the course on American drug policy," said St. Pierre.
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