The Connecticut General Assembly
OFFICE OF LEGISLATIVE RESEARCH
.I NAME: 1551.rpt
.I COMP: 12/13/96
.I REVW: loh000
.I PAGES: 3
.I TITLE: arizona and california initiative on medical use of marijuana
.I NOTES: tjo
December 13, 1996 96-R-1551
FROM: George Coppolo, Chief Attorney
RE: Arizona and California Initiative on Medical Use of Marijuana
You asked for a copy and summary of voter initiatives recently enacted in Arizona and California dealing with the use of marijuana for medical purposes.
Voters in both Arizona and California recently approved ballot initiatives authorizing marijuana use for medical purposes where its use has been deemed appropriate by a physician.
The Arizona initiative (Proposition 200) allows physicians to prescribe a controlled substance such as marijuana to treat a disease or to relieve the pain and suffering of a seriously or terminally ill patient. The doctor must be able to document that scientific research supports the use of the controlled substance and must obtain a written opinion from a second doctor that the prescription is appropriate. A patient who receives, possesses, or uses a controlled substance as prescribed by a doctor would not be subject to criminal penalties.
The proposition also established certain sentencing rules for those who commit violent crimes while under the influence of a drug and those who are found guilty of drug possession for personal consumption. It also establishes the Drug Treatment and Education Fund and the Arizona Parents Commission on Drug Education and Prevention. These provisions are summarized in a subsequent section of this memo.
The California initiative amends state law to allow people to grow or possess marijuana for medical use when recommended by a physician. The measure provides for the use of marijuana when a physician has determined that the personís health would benefit from its use in the treatment of cancer, anorexia, AIDS, chronic pain, spasticity, glaucoma, arthritis, migraine, or "any other illness for which marijuana provides relief." The physicianís recommendation may be oral or written. No prescriptions or other record keeping is required by the measure. The measure also allows caregivers to grow and possess marijuana for a person for whom the marijuana is recommended. The measure states that no physician may be punished for having recommended marijuana for medical purposes. Furthermore, the measure specifies that it is not intended to overrule any law that prohibits the use of marijuana for nonmedical purposes.
In addition to decriminalizing the possession of marijuana and other controlled substances, prescribed by a doctor, the Arizona initiatives made the following changes:
1. It requires that people who commit violent crimes while under the influence of drugs serve 100% of their sentences, without eligibility for parole.
2. It requires people who have been convicted before the proposition passes of the personal possession or use of a controlled substance such as marijuana and who are serving their sentence in prison to be released on parole.. A person released on parole is under the supervision of a parole officer and may have his parole revoked if he violates any condition of parole. The State Department of Corrections must establish a procedure for paroling such people unless the Parole Board determines that they would be a danger to the general public. Those released on parole must participate in drug treatment or education.
3. It requires those convicted after the proposition passes of the personal possession or use of a controlled substance such as marijuana to be eligible for probation. A person who is sentenced to probation does not serve any time in jail or prison, is under the supervision of a probation officer, and remains free as long as he continues his good behavior. A person on probation must participate in a drug treatment or education program. A person who is convicted of possession for the second time may also be required, as a condition of probation, to perform community service, undergo intensified drug treatment, and be under house arrest. A peson convicted for the third time is ineligible for probation.
4. It establishes at the Drug Treatment and Education Fund. These monies come from a percentage of the luxury tax on alcohol, cigarettes and other tobacco products. Fifty percent of the money must be transferred to Superior Court Probation Departments to cover the costs of placing people in drug education and treatment programs. The remaining 50% must be transferred to the Arizona Parents Commission on Drug Education and Prevention.
3. It establishes the Arizona Parents commission on Drug Education and Prevention. The Commission is responsible for funding programs that increase and enhance parental involvement in drug education and treatment.
The California initiative is Proposition 215, called the Medical Marijuana Initiative and is entitled the Compassionate Use Act of 1996. It will be codified as Section 11362.5 of the Health and Safety Code.
The first portion of the initiative specifies that the lawís purposes are to:
(1) ensure that seriously ill Californians have the right to obtain and use marijuana for medical purposes where that medical use is deemed appropriate and has been recommended by a physician who has determined that the personís health would benefit from the use of marijuana in the treatment for cancer, anorexia, AIDS, chronic pain, spasticity, glaucoma, arthritis, migraine, or any other illness for which marijuana provides relief;
(2) ensure that patients and their primary caregivers who obtain and use marijuana for medical purposes upon the recommendation of a physician are not subject to criminal prosecution or sanction; and
(3) encourage the federal and state governments to implement a plan to provide for the safe and affordable distribution of marijuana to all patients in medical need of marijuana.
The law protects physicians who recommend marijuana to a patient for medical purposes by providing that they may not be punished or denied any right or privilege for doing so.
The imitative provides that the state law making it illegal to posses; or cultivate marijuana does not apply to a patient, or his primary caregiver, who posses or cultivates it for the personal medical purposes of the patient upon a physiciansís written or oral recommendation or approval.
It defines "primary caregiver" as the individual designated by the patient exempted from criminal liability who has consistently assumed responsibility for the patientís housing, health, or safety.