medical cannabis movement

Type: Terms

The Medical Marijuana Movement took place in the late 1980s and early 1990s, primarily in the North East Coast, the Bay Area and the Los Angeles area of California.

A coalition of advocates representing people who suffered from the effects of cancer and cancer treatment, from the effects of AIDS and AIDS treatments, and from the effects of PTSD and active duty military service. Medical marijuana was also espoused as beneficial for certain conditions such as seizures and glaucoma.

Early reform efforts (pre-1996)

The movement to legalize medical cannabis in the U.S. sprang out of San Francisco in the early 1990s, with efforts soon spreading statewide and eventually across the nation.

Proposition P was approved by 79% of San Francisco voters in November 1991, calling on state lawmakers to pass legislation allowing the medical use of cannabis.

The city board of supervisors additionally passed a resolution in August 1992 urging the police commission and district attorney to “make lowest priority the arrest or prosecution of those involved in the possession or cultivation of [cannabis] for medicinal purposes” and to “allow a letter from a treating physician to be used as prima facia evidence that marijuana can alleviate the pain and suffering of that patient’s medical condition”.

The resolution enabled the open sale of cannabis to AIDS patients and others within the city, most notably through the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club which was operated by medical cannabis activist Dennis Peron (who spearheaded Proposition P and later the statewide Proposition 215).

Similar clubs appeared outside San Francisco in the ensuing years as other cities passed legislation to support the medical use of cannabis. The Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana was founded in 1993 after 75% of Santa Cruz voters approved Measure A in November 1992.

And the Oakland Cannabis Buyers’ Cooperative was founded in 1995 shortly before the city council passed multiple medical cannabis resolutions.

Following the lead of San Francisco and other cities in California, state lawmakers passed Senate Joint Resolution 8 in 1993, a non-binding measure calling on the federal government to enact legislation allowing physicians to prescribe cannabis.

In 1994, Senate Bill 1364 was approved by state legislators, to reclassify cannabis as a Schedule II drug at the state level.

And Assembly Bill 1529 was approved in 1995, to create a medical necessity defense for patients using cannabis with a physician’s recommendation, for treatment of AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, or multiple sclerosis.

Both SB 1364 and AB 1529 were vetoed by Governor Pete Wilson, however, paving the way for the passage of Proposition 215 in 1996.

Proposition 215 (1996)

Frustrated by vetoes of medical cannabis bills in successive years, medical cannabis advocates in California took the issue directly to the voters, collecting 775,000 signatures for qualification of a statewide ballot initiative in 1996.

Proposition 215 – the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 – was subsequently approved with 56% of the vote, legalizing the use, possession, and cultivation of cannabis by patients with a physician’s recommendation, for treatment of cancer, anorexia, AIDS, chronic pain, spasticity, glaucoma, arthritis, migraine, or “any other illness for which marijuana provides relief”.

The law also allowed patient caregivers to cultivate cannabis, and urged lawmakers to facilitate the “safe and affordable distribution of marijuana”.