In taking a national perspective on medical marijuana laws, Rafael M. Villalobos, Jr., an attorney at Eckert Seamans’ Philadelphia office, remembers an old adage from law school: “As goes California, so goes the nation.” That’s because, in 1996, California became the first state in the nation to legalize medical marijuana by means of Proposition 215—also called the Compassionate Use Act—which made medical marijuana use legal in the state.
At press time, 29 more states had passed laws permitting individuals to possess and use marijuana for medical purposes—in addition, seven states allow recreational use of the drug.
Here’s what you need to know about medical marijuana laws, and what they mean for the industry.
1. How the laws work
Michael Vitiello, professor of law at University of the Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, California, is quick to point out that no doctor in the United States can “write a prescription” for medical marijuana. Rather, if their patient has at least one of the types of permissible conditions that are appropriate for treatment with medical marijuana in the state where that doctor is licensed to practice medicine, their physician can “recommend” that their patient use medical marijuana. At that point, a patient generally receives a card that allows them to procure medical marijuana for use in the treatment of their condition, he says.
Some conditions deemed appropriate for treatment by means of medical marijuana include:
· Chronic pain,
· Hepatitis C,
· Multiple sclerosis,
· Parkinson’s disease, and
· Post-traumatic stress disorder.
Laws allowing the use of medical marijuana vary across the country. For example, in some states, patients can have a 30-day supply of medical marijuana; in others, a 60-day supply. In still other states, patients can grow and cultivate marijuana plants for medical use; in others, they can’t legally smoke marijuana for medical purposes but they can use an ointment or a cream, says Vitiello.