A brief description of each state’s medical marijuana programs follows. The programs are
discussed in the order in which they were approved by voters or passed by the state legislatures.
Proposition 215, approved by 56% of the voters in November, removed the state’s criminal
penalties for medical marijuana use, possession, and cultivation by patients with the “written or
oral recommendation or approval of a physician” who has determined that the patient’s “health
would benefit from medical marijuana.” Called the Compassionate Use Act, it legalized cannabis
for “the treatment of cancer, anorexia, AIDS, chronic pain, spasticity, glaucoma, arthritis,
migraine, or any other illness for which marijuana provides relief.” The law permits possession of
an amount sufficient for the patient’s “personal medical purposes.” A second statute (Senate bill
420), passed in 2003, allows “reasonable compensation” for medical marijuana caregivers and
says that distribution should be done on a nonprofit basis.
Voters in November removed the state’s criminal penalties for use, possession, and cultivation of
marijuana by patients whose physicians advise that marijuana “may mitigate the symptoms or
effects” of a debilitating condition. The law, approved by 55% of Oregon voters, does not provide
for distribution of cannabis but allows up to seven plants per patient (changed to 24 plants by act
of the state legislature in 2005). The state registry program is supported by patient fees. (In the
November 2004 election, 58% of Oregon voters rejected a measure that would have expanded the
state’s existing program.)
Voters in November approved a ballot measure to remove state-level criminal penalties for
patients diagnosed by a physician as having a debilitating medical condition for which other
approved medications were considered. The measure was approved by 58% of the voters. In
1999, the state legislature created a mandatory state registry for medical cannabis users and
limited the amount a patient can legally possess to 1 ounce and six plants.
Approved in November by 59% of the voters, the ballot initiative exempts from prosecution
patients who meet all qualifying criteria, possess no more marijuana than is necessary for their
own personal medical use (but no more than a 60-day supply), and present valid documentation to
investigating law enforcement officers. The state does not issue identification cards to patients.
Maine’s ballot initiative, passed in November by 61% of the voters, puts the burden on the state
to prove that a patient’s medical use or possession is not authorized by statute. Patients with a
qualifying condition, authenticated by a physician, who have been “advised” by the physician that
they “might benefit” from medical cannabis, are permitted 1¼ ounces and six plants. There is no
state registry of patients.
In June, the Hawaii legislature approved a bill removing state-level criminal penalties for medical
cannabis use, possession, and cultivation of up to seven plants. A physician must certify that the
patient has a debilitating condition for which “the potential benefits of the medical use of
marijuana would likely outweigh the health risks.” This was the first state law permitting medical
cannabis use that was enacted by a legislature instead of by ballot initiative.
A ballot initiative to amend the state constitution was approved by 54% of the voters in
November. The amendment provides that lawful medical cannabis users must be diagnosed by a
physician as having a debilitating condition and be “advised” by the physician that the patient
“might benefit” from using the drug. A patient and the patient’s caregiver may possess 2 usable
ounces and six plants.
To amend the state constitution by ballot initiative, a proposed amendment must be approved by
the voters in two separate elections. In November, 65% of Nevada voters passed for the second
time an amendment to exempt medical cannabis users from prosecution. Patients who have
“written documentation” from their physicians that marijuana may alleviate their health condition
may register with the state Department of Agriculture and receive an identification card that
exempts them from state prosecution for using medical marijuana
In May, Vermont became the second state to legalize medical cannabis by legislative action
instead of ballot initiative. Vermont patients are allowed to grow up to three marijuana plants in a
locked room and to possess 2 ounces of manicured marijuana under the supervision of the
Department of Public Safety, which maintains a patient registry. The law went into effect without
the signature of the governor, who declined to sign it but also refused to veto it, despite pressure
from Washington. A 2007 legislative act expanded eligibility for the program and increased to
nine the number of plants participants may grow.
In November, 62% of state voters passed Initiative 148, allowing qualifying patients to use
marijuana under medical supervision. Eligible medical conditions include cancer, glaucoma,
HIV/AIDS, wasting syndrome, seizures, and severe or chronic pain. A doctor must certify that the
patient has a debilitating medical condition and that the benefits of using marijuana would likely
outweigh the risks. The patient may grow up to six plants and possess 1 ounce of dried marijuana.
The state public health department registers patients and caregivers.
Rhode Island, 2006
In January, the state legislature overrode the governor’s veto of a medical marijuana bill, allowing
patients to possess up to 12 plants or 2½ ounces to treat cancer, HIV/AIDS, and other chronic
ailments. The law included a sunset provision and was set to expire on July 1, 2007, unless
renewed by the legislature. The law was made permanent on June 21, 2007, after legislators voted
again to override the governor’s veto by a wide margin.
New Mexico, 2007
Passed by the legislature and signed into law by the governor in April, the Lynn and Erin
Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act went into effect on July 1, 2007. It requires the state’s
Department of Health to set rules governing the distribution of medical cannabis to stateauthorized
patients. Unlike other state programs, patients and their caregivers cannot grow their
own marijuana; rather, it will be provided by state-licensed “cannabis production facilities.”
Approved by 63% of Michigan voters in the November 2008 presidential election, Proposal 1
permits physicians to approve marijuana use by registered patients with debilitating medical
conditions, including cancer, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, and other
conditions approved by the state’s Department of Community Health. Up to 12 plants can be
cultivated in an indoor, locked facility by the patient or a designated caregiver