A Big Victory
Compassion beats out prohibition to win big in California By Dana Larsen
By Dana Larsen
The Beginning of the End
November 5, 1996, will be remembered as a turning point in the war against drug users. When future historians look back upon this era of drugwar turbulence, they will mark that as the day that the drugpeace activists finally won a big one. Two big ones. This was the day that marked the beginning of the end for the US drugwar.
On November 5, marijuana became a legal medicine in California, while Arizona went a step further and passed a law allowing any controlled substance to be prescribed by a physician. Both of these initiatives passed despite strong opposition from federal and state politicians. This is the clearest and loudest signal ever given by the American people that they no longer wish to wage the merciless and senseless war against marijuana smokers and users of other drugs.
Compassion in California
The California initiative, known as Proposition 215, allows the possession and use of marijuana by anyone with a doctor’s recommendation.
This initiative received a lot of media attention, partly because it was associated with the San Francisco Cannabis Buyer’s Club. The club was raided by State Troopers shortly after it was announced that the medical marijuana initiative would be placed upon the election ballot, but the raid ultimately produced more sympathy and support for the Buyer’s Club than it might otherwise have received.
The initiative finally passed 56% to 44%, with support concentrated in the urban areas of San Francisco and Los Angeles. Rose Ann Fuhrman provides us the story of the Victory in California on the following pages.
Medicine in Arizona
Arizona’s Proposition 200 passed with 66% in support. It is broader than California’s, but it also includes some clauses which seem to pander to the prohibitionist mentality.
Proposition 200 removes all chance of parole for anyone convicted of committing a violent crime while “under the influence” of an illegal drug, yet it also allows the automatic probation and parole of anyone convicted of the personal possession of a prohibited substance, as long as they agree to enter a drug treatment program.
It also allows a medical doctor to prescribe any prohibited substance for a patient with a “serious or terminal illness”, if another doctor will second the opinion. This opens the door for banned drugs other than marijuana to be used in medical therapy. LSD, heroin, amphetamine, psilocybe and many other banned drugs have their proponents and therapeutic effects. This represents a dynamic shift both in Arizona’s drug policy and medical system.
The states of Oregon and Washington have been moving towards decriminalization of marijuana as well, and many other US State governments are sympathetic to the use of medical marijuana. It seems likely that the Californian and Arizonan compassionate use laws will soon spread to other states, and that the American federal government will eventually be confronted by a coalition of state governments which demand an end to the prohibition of marijuana and other useful medicines.
the Marijuana Policy Project. Phone (202) 462-5747; fax (202) 232-0442; write PO Box 77492 Capitol Hill, Washington, DC 20013-8492, email [email protected]; or web
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