Prop. 215

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director September 14, 2015

    Medical marijuana dispensaryCalifornia lawmakers approved a series of bills in the final hours of the 2015 legislative session that seek to establish statewide rules and oversight governing the distribution of medicinal cannabis. The three bills — Assembly Bill 266, Senate Bill 643, and Assembly Bill 243 — now await final approval from Democrat Gov. Jerry Brown.

    Much of the measures’ finalized language was amended and approved by lawmakers at the close of the session and was not subject to public testimony or significant floor debate.

    Specifically, the legislative package creates a Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation within the Department of Consumer Affairs to develop rules and licensing procedures for authorized medical cannabis dispensaries. Dispensaries will be required to operate in accordance with local guidelines prior to receiving a state license. State-licensed dispensaries will be permitted to operate on a ‘for profit’ basis. However, the new regulations do not override municipal moratoriums that are already in place prohibiting such operations in various jurisdictions throughout the state, nor do they prohibit the collection of local sales taxes on marijuana purchases in communities that presently impose them.

    Separate language in the bills seeks to regulate the licensed production of cannabis and imposes rules in regard to growing, testing, and labeling cannabis like other agricultural products. The bills also seek to provide additional oversight to physicians who recommend cannabis therapy. However, the measures do not limit physicians from recommending cannabis at their own discretion — activity which is codified under Proposition 215/the Compassionate Use Act.

    Proposed language seeking to impose an excise tax on various cannabis products was not included in the final bill package.

    If signed into law, the new regulations will take effect in 2017.

    California voters initially approved Proposition 215 in 1996, which permits qualified patients to possess and/or grow marijuana for therapeutic purposes. However, the measure did not provide language explicitly providing for third-party providers outside of assigned caregivers, instead calling upon state lawmakers “to implement a plan of safe and affordable distribution of marijuana to all patients in medical need of marijuana.”

    California NORML has additional information of the measures here and here.

  • by Allen St. Pierre, Former NORML Executive Director May 15, 2015

    wammThere are thousands of licensed cannabis-related businesses these days in states like Colorado, Washington and California; and soon enough too in Alaska and Oregon. Medical cannabis-related businesses also dot the national landscape as well.

    When Californians were the first in 1996 to cast votes in favor of allowing medical access to cannabis, with a near singular message of ‘compassion’ for patients that need therapeutic access to the plant. Advocates for the passage of Prop. 215 (including NORML) didn’t envisage that the initiative did more than two primary things:

    -exempt from criminal arrest and prosecution medical patients who possess physician’s recommendation to use cannabis as a therapeutic

    -allow for ‘compassionate’ access through collectives that, ideally, were to be not for profit

    Well…culture, custom, commerce and the free market–not too surprisingly–largely came to trump compassion as a primary impetus for a medical cannabis collective’s being. The hundreds of medical cannabis businesses that currently exist in California labor under laws originally meant for lending legal protections for ‘self-preservation’ and ‘collectivism’ regarding how medical cannabis was to be a distributed to the sick, dying and sense-threatened.

    However, one genuine cannabis patient collective has managed to survive for 20 years, the Santa Cruz-based WAMM.

    Headed by NORML Advisory board member and MS patient Valerie Corral, WAMM has been a remarkable leader in legal challenges to federal encroachment, medical and botanical research. WAMM provides a comfortable, nurturing and inviting environment–physically and emotionally–to women and men who need therapeutic access to cannabis, in safe environs and who want to be part of a community that cultivates and shares the cannabis grown amongst the collective’s members.

    Please see links to related articles about the current challenges WAMM faces at High Times and Good Times.

    If possible, please make a timely donation to Save WAMM!



  • by Russ Belville, NORML Outreach Coordinator November 4, 2011

    Tomorrow, November 5th, 2011, marks the fifteenth anniversary of California’s passage of Prop 215, The Compassionate Use Act. The Act passed with 55.58% of the vote and remains the greatest achievement in marijuana law reform in the “War on Drugs” era.

    NORML's Chart of Legalization Polls - data compiled by Russ Belville from various organizations asking a form of the question "Should marijuana be legalized in America?" (click graphic for full-sized version)

    The successes of Prop 215 are well documented.  Two years following its passage, the rest of the West Coast and Alaska passed their own medical marijuana initiatives, with close to equal (OR 55%) or greater (WA 59% & AK 58%) support than California voters gave Prop 215.

    The next decade saw twelve more states and the District of Columbia passing medical marijuana laws, with seven of those states doing so through the legislature.  Five of the citizen initiatives topped 60% support.  As states passed medical marijuana, some added more conditions for qualification, some legislated dispensary operations, and the most recent have instituted protections for the rights of patients to drive, work, have a home, get an organ transplant, and raise their kids.  In some ways, medical marijuana has improved in fifteen years.

    In the 21st Century, medical marijuana support has flatlined and support for legalization of marijuana has almost doubled.

    But a closer examination reveals a reform strategy that has stalled out and may even be in decline.  The last election saw Oregon fail to pass a dispensary measure for the second time with about the same support after six years.  South Dakota defeated medical marijuana with only 36% support, a drop of 12 points since they tried in 2006.  Arizona only barely passed medical marijuana with 50.13% support, when they had previously seen 65% in 1996 and 64% in a 1998 referendum (both 1990’s Arizona Acts were invalidated.)

    Indeed, the national polls show a stalling on the medical marijuana issue as well.  When Gallup asked about support for medical marijuana and legalized marijuana in 1999, support was 73% and 29%, respectively.  We assume that someone who supports legalization for healthy people probably supports legalization for sick people, too, so that means 44% of those polled only support medical marijuana, not legalization.  But in the latest 2011 poll, legalization support has hit 50% while in the 2010 poll, medical support had dropped to 70%, down 8 points since 2005.  How has the support for legalization doubled (25% to 50%) since Prop 215 while support for making a medical exception to criminal marijuana has flatlined? (more…)

  • by Allen St. Pierre, Former NORML Executive Director May 3, 2011

    Despite legal protections for qualified medical patients who possess a physician’s recommendation for cannabis being the law in fifteen states and the District of Columbia since 1996, there is still a tremendous gray area in the law for patients, physicians, lawyers and providers.

    In response, NORML Foundation has just published a new book entitled ‘Medical Marijuana Law in California’, researched and written by NORML Legal Committee lawyers from Ventura, James Devine and Jay Leiderman.

    While the name of this new legal guide implies exclusivity to California, the reality is that the legal information found in the guide is applicable to the other fourteen states and the District of Columbia that now have legal protections for qualified patients who’ve received a physician’s recommendation to posses and use medical cannabis. California’s patients and ‘cannabusinesses’ were the first in the country, starting in 1996, to legally vet most of the legal/public health concerns regarding medical cannabis (i.e., If a passenger in a car has medical cannabis on his person, is the driver liable for ‘drug transportation?‘ or ‘Can I fail a drug screen at work because I’m a state-approved medical cannabis patient?‘, ‘Can I be a medical cannabis patient and still own a gun?’, etc….).

    No personal or legal library that focuses on cannabis is complete without this new book from the NORML Foundation.

    If you’re a patient, cultivator, provider, physician, investor, policymaker or member of the media, the 2011 NORML ‘Medical Marijuana Law in California’ is a great and affordable source of up-to-date legal information about the current state of California’s medical marijuana laws.

    Topics include:

    Who can use medical marijuana and how much can they possess?

    Medical marijuana in the workplace

    Driver’s Licenses





    Probation and Parole concerns

    Concentrated cannabis products like hash, oils and ‘medibles’

    Numerous other legalisms and case studies regarding medical marijuana

    *Single copies of the 170-page legal guide retail for $15 (two copies for $25) and are now available online here.

    **Bulk copies are available for bookstores, medical cannabis dispensaries, lawyers, physicians and organizations by emailing an inquiry to legal@norml.org, or, by calling 202-483-5500.

    Thanks for supporting cannabis law reforms, as well as supporting America’s oldest and largest public interest organization that lobbies, litigates and educates on all matters marijuana-related: NORML!

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director December 7, 2010

    Obama administration officials strongly oppose plans by the city of Oakland to license and tax industrial sized medical cannabis producers, according to a just published report on CaliforniaWatch.org, the website of the Center for Investigative Reporting.

    Sources at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the United States attorney’s office in San Francisco said that federal officials would likely pursue criminal or civil litigation against local marijuana growers as well as Oakland city officials if they decide to move forward with plans to license medical cannabis farming. “Oakland would be on the hook for violating state and federal law,” an unnamed administration official told the website.

    Oakland City Attorney John Russo confirmed that DOJ officials are opposed to the city’s licensing plan. “They’ve expressed their concerns that the path Oakland is taking is in violation of the law,” Russo said in a prepared statement.

    Oakland officials are seeking to license up to four industrial-sized medical marijuana grow operations within the city limits. The permits do not set limits regarding the quantity of cannabis that licensed producers may cultivate at each given site. City officials began accepting applications from prospective growers in November.

    According to the California Watch report, federal officials are also planning to initiate a broader crack down on marijuana production and distribution statewide. The story reports that DOJ and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officials met with California’s four U.S. attorneys on November 10 “to develop a plan to deal with some of the loopholes and gray areas in the state’s medical marijuana program.”

    The administration’s threats appear to be in conflict with an October 19, 2009 DOJ memo stating, “As a general matter, pursuit of [federal law enforcement] priorities should not focus federal resources … on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana.” Nevertheless, as previously reported by Americans for Safe Access and others, the administration since issuing that memo has engaged in an estimated 30 federal raids of medical marijuana providers, producers, and laboratory facilities that engage in the testing of cannabis potency and quality.

    NORML will have further details on this story in Thursday’s weekly media advisory.

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