Medical Marijuana in States Prior to Passage of California's Prop 215
Beginning in 1978, thirty-seven states enacted some form of medicinal cannabis legislation other than effective laws. These include:
Therapeutic Research Programs (state-run therapeutic research programs, not operable because of federal obstruction): Alabama, California, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, Texas.
Symbolic Prescriptions (patients allowed to possess cannabis only if obtained through prescription, not operable because the CSA bars physicians from writing prescriptions for Schedule I drugs): Arizona, California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Iowa, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Virginia, Wisconsin.
State Rescheduling (not operable because federal scheduling supersedes state schedules): Alaska, Iowa, Montana, Tennessee, and the District of Columbia.
Non-binding Resolutions Urging Federal Rescheduling: California, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Washington.
"Beginning in the late 1970s, a number of state governments sought to give large numbers of patients legal access to medical marijuana through federally approved research programs.
"While 26 states passed laws creating therapeutic research programs, only seven obtained all of the necessary federal permissions, received marijuana and/or THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the primary active ingredient in marijuana) from the federal government, and distributed the substances to approved patients through approved pharmacies. Those seven states were California, Georgia, Michigan, New Mexico, New York, Tennessee, and Washington.
"Typically, patients were referred to the program by their personal physicians. These patients, who often had not responded well to conventional treatments, underwent medical and psychological screening processes. Then, the patients applied to their state patient qualification review board, which resided within the state health department. If granted permission, they would receive marijuana from approved pharmacies. Patients were required to monitor their usage and marijuana’s effects, which the state used to prepare reports for the FDA. (Interestingly, former Vice President Al Gore’s sister received medical marijuana through the Tennessee program while undergoing chemotherapy for cancer in the early 1980s.)
"These programs were designed to enable patients to use marijuana. The research was not intended to generate data that could lead to FDA approval of marijuana as a prescription medicine. For example, the protocols did not involve doubleblind assignment to research and control groups, nor did they involve the use of placebos.
"Such programs were discontinued by the mid-1980s, and the federal government has since made it more difficult for researchers to obtain marijuana for study, preferring to approve only those studies that are well-controlled clinical trials designed to yield essential scientific data."
Marijuana Policy Project, "State by State Medical Marijuana Laws 2015 with a December 2016 Supplement - How to Remove the Threat of Arrest," (Washington, DC: MPP, February 2017), p. 1, last accessed January 8, 2019.