Proposition 215: Should Marijuana Be Legalized?

Proposition 215: Should Marijuana Be Legalized?
Medical Marijuana Initiative Section 1. Section 11362.5 is added to the 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) (l) 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 person’s 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 to provide 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 nonmedical purposes. With standing 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 en d the provisions of this measure are severable. On November 5th,
Californians approved Prop. 215, allowing patients to use medical marijuana.

Voter support of this historic new law was 55.7% in favor verses only 44.3%
opposed, a spread of 11.4 points. The passage of Proposition 215 would give the
people of California legal access to a remarkably safe, highly versatile, and
potentially inexpensive medicine. Patients find marijuana helpful for nausea and
vomiting, for glaucoma and as an appetite stimulant. It is used for the relief
of muscle spasms and seizures, as well as osteoarthritis, menstrual cramps,
migraine and other forms of chronic pain. It is safer than most prescription
medicines and often works better, with less serious side effects.

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If marijuana were not prohibited, it would also be less expensive than most
conventional medications. The cost of medical marijuana would be $20 to $30 an
ounce, or about 30 cents per cigarette. Once cigarette usually relieves the
nausea and vomiting produced by cancer chemotherapy. So does a standard dose of
Zofran, the best legally available treatment, which costs $30 to $40 – at least
100 times the price of marijuana. According to a 1995 poll conducted by the
American Civil Liberties Union, 85 percent of Americans think marijuana should
be available as a medicine. Interest in medical marijuana is becoming so great
that physicians in California and elsewhere may soon be asked to assume
responsibilities for which they are unprepared. Nineteenth-century doctors were
more sophisticated about marijuana than contemporary ones. Between 1840 and 1900,
more than 100 articles on the therapeutic use of the drug then known as Indian
hemp were published in European and American medical journals. When medical use
in the United States was effectively outlawed by the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937,
the American Medical Association, to its credit, opposed the ban. Since then,
unfortunately, the medical community has become largely ignorant about marijuana
and has been a victim and an agent in the spread of misinformation. This
situation is finally beginning to change. Doctors are learning about marijuana
in an unusual way not from articles in medical journals or from drug company
advertisements, but from their patients. There have been many cases observed
that many patients who use marijuana to relieve symptoms from muscle spasms to
severe depression. Their doctors respond in different ways. A few condemn
marijuana use, and some pretend to ignore it or profess indifference, but most
offer some encouragement or moral support despite the fact that marijuana is
classified under federal law as “unsafe for use under medical supervision.”
Obviously doctors confronted with medical need can recognize the foolishness of
this law. But most are either afraid to do anything more or unable to provide
further help because they know to little. Physicians will find that more and
more patients are approaching them with questions about marijuana. They will
have to learn which symptoms and disorders may be better treated with marijuana
than with conventional medications. They will also need to instruct patients who
are unfamiliar with marijuana in the best ways to use it. To accomplish that,
they must listen more carefully to their patients and educated themselves and
one another about this medicine. Physicians have long recognized the need for
continuing medical education (CME) to keep themselves up to date on new drugs
and techniques. As Proposition 215 comes to California, physicians should do
their part in fulfilling its promise by organizing CME courses on the medical
use of marijuana.