An initiative to legalize the medical use of marijuana appears headed for the November 1996 California ballot thanks to crucial last-minute financial support from a group of major donors. The new donations make it likely that supporters will garner the necessary number of signatures by the April 20 deadline to place the initiative on the ballot.
Initiative organizers were elated by the gift and expressed confidence that voters would approve the measure. Polls indicate that a solid majority of Californians support the medicinal legalization of marijuana. The current medical marijuana initiative would guarantee the right of patients to use marijuana for medicinal purposes if they possess a physician’s recommendation.
Medical marijuana has remained illegal despite growing acceptance in the health care community of its efficacy in the treatment of cancer, glaucoma, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain and muscle spasticity. Under current state law, Californians who cultivate marijuana for medicinal use may be subject to up to three years in state prison.
The 1996 medical marijuana initiative has been endorsed by the cities of San Francisco, Oakland, and West Hollywood; the Santa Cruz and Marin Boards of Supervisors; the California Nurses Association; the Los Angeles AIDS Commission, the California Multiple Sclerosis Society, the California Seniors’ Legislature, and many other organizations and public leaders.
According to statements made to The New York Times by Dennis Peron, Director of the California Medical Marijuana Initiative, the all-volunteer signature drive has gathered approximately 200,000 signatures to date. The coalition must collect 600,000 signatures by April 20 to place the initiative on the November ballot.