Prop 215, which is also called the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, is a California law that allows marijuana to be used as a medical treatment. It does not legalize cannabis, but instead changes the way that doctors and patients will be treated in the California court system.
Currently, 15 states, as well as Washington DC, have legalized the use of medical marijuana. California was the first state to legalize medical cannabis, which occurred in 1996. In 1998, three more states followed suit and eventually inspired 15 states to begin using marijuana to treat a wide range of ailments. Of the 35 states where cannabis is illegal, nine of these states are also considering legalizing the substance. Prop 215 is a law that has inspired a great deal of change and continues to do so today.
Three Important Facts About Prop 215
1. Patients that use medicinal marijuana may still be arrested.
Marijuana is illegal under federal law. California, as well as 14 other states, have decided to pass their own legislation that go against this law. Therefore, while doctors are allowed to recommend marijuana to patients, they may not actually prescribe it. Pharmacies cannot even carry it. Medical marijuana is only available at specialized marijuana dispensaries.
Also, if a patient is caught with medicinal cannabis, they may be arrested and brought up on charges. If this happens, the patient will be forced to go to court and defend their marijuana use. The doctor who recommended that the patient use medical marijuana will also be forced to testify. Prop 215 does protect patients and doctors, but does not mean that patients may not be questioned and forced to defend themselves.
2. Prop 215 did not make things easy for medical marijuana dispensaries.
Most people would assume that because medical marijuana had been legalized, medical marijuana dispensaries would be allowed to operate. After all, these businesses paid taxes, just like any other business. Unfortunately, it was not that easy.
Until March of 2009, the DEA would raid and sometimes prosecute medical marijuana dispensaries. Owning a dispensary was a profitable, but dangerous business. Even doctors that recommended medicinal cannabis to patients were sometimes prosecuted. Fortunately, in early 2009 federal authorities promised to stop these raids. Marijuana dispensaries are now allowed to operate in peace and patients are able to get the medicine they need.
3. Prop 215 also allows patients to grow their own marijuana.
Prop 215 has changed many people’s lives. Some people now purchase their marijuana at a local dispensary, participate in a marijuana collective, or simply grow their own. Patients that decide to grown their own may cultivate up to six mature marijuana plants or 12 immature plants. Yet, patients may not, under any circumstance, sell the marijuana for a profit. While growing marijuana is not necessarily easy, it goes give patients another option to think about.
Many believe that Prop 215 will eventually lead to the legalization of marijuana for any purpose. It has inspired 14 other states to enact their own legislation, but has yet to inspire the total legalization of cannabis. However, many people truly believe that it is only a matter of time.