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Medical Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How many states have enacted medical marijuana laws since 1996?
  2. Does the May 14, 2001 Supreme Court Ruling (U.S. v. Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative) affect these laws?
  3. May physicians legally prescribe marijuana?
  4. May physicians legally recommend marijuana therapy to a patient?
  5. May a state authorize medical marijuana clinical trials without federal approval?
  6. May a legislature reschedule marijuana for medical purposes under state law?
  7. Can a state legally license the production and distribution of medical marijuana?
  8. Is there federal legislation pending to legalize marijuana as a medicine?

Q: How many states have enacted medical marijuana laws since 1996?

A: See the complete summary of state-specific medical cannabis laws.

Q: Does the May 14, 2001 Supreme Court Ruling (U.S. v. Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative) affect these laws?

A: No. The legal use of medical marijuana by patients in these states is not challenged by this decision. The Court's decision applies only to the manufacture and distribution of marijuana under federal law. The question of whether patients may legally use marijuana in states where such use is permitted was not at issue in this case.

Q: May physicians legally prescribe marijuana?

A: No. Under almost all operational state-specific medical programs, physicians authorize medical cannabis therapy via a written or oral recommendation, not a formal prescription.

Q: May physicians legally recommend marijuana therapy to a patient?

A: Yes. On September 7, 2000, U.S. District Judge William Alsup ruled in Conant v. McCaffrey that federal authorities may not sanction doctors who recommend marijuana to patients.

Q: May a state authorize medical marijuana clinical trials without federal approval?

A: All clinical trial work involving the administration of cannabis or cannabis products require federal authorization from FDA, DEA, and NIDA.

Q: May a legislature reschedule marijuana for medical purposes under state law?

A: Yes, although this is largely a symbolic gesture. Rescheduling marijuana statewide does not protect patients from criminal prosecution under federal law or allow doctors in that state to legally prescribe the drug.

Q: Can a state legally license the production and distribution of medical marijuana?

A: While such actions are technically in conflict with federal law, recent legislation has barred the Justice Department from interfering with these state-sponsored activities.

Q. Is there federal legislation pending to legalize marijuana as a medicine?

A: For the latest on state and federal medical marijuana legislation, visit NORML's Take Action Center.