California voters could legalize medical use of pot
October 14, 1996
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OAKLAND, California (CNN) -- Patients coping with cancer,
AIDS and even glaucoma could get some relief from marijuana
if California voters give their approval.
Proposition 215 -- on the November ballot -- would exempt
doctors and patients from marijuana laws, allowing them to
grow and use it in treatment. The proposition does not
What would it mean to those who would use it?
"It makes the difference of laying in bed all day vomiting and
being an invalid, or getting up to where I could function,"
said Dixie Romagno, who has multiple sclerosis.
The issue grabbed headlines in August when the state attorney
general ordered police to raid a so-called buyers club in San
Despite the widely publicized bust, a few marijuana buyers
clubs remain open in other cities. One in Oakland offers
price lists and brand names.
Proposition 215 would not legalize buyers clubs, though it
does ask the government to provide safe distribution of
marijuana to patients.
Despite patient testimonials, marijuana has not passed
rigorous scientific testing. Some doctors worry that giving
it a legal loophole could undermine the current system for
approving and assuring the quality of all medicines.
"They have to be what they say they are," said Dr. Hugh
Vincent. "They have to do what they say they do. And if you
can't do that, then the whole system of medicine starts
becoming a little suspect and a little cultish."
The California Medical Association opposes Proposition 215.
But the San Francisco Medical Society got an unexpected
response from its members.
"Surprisingly, the information that came forth was that
marijuana was being used effectively, and that the benefit
far outweighed the risk," said Dr. Toni Brayer.
The main ingredient of marijuana is available legally in
marinol pills, though treatment can cost thousands of dollars
a month. Some patients claim it does not work as well as
Without conclusive support from scientific studies, or
approval from the Food and Drug Administration, supporters of
Proposition 215 hope the pleas of individual patients will
advance their campaign for the medical uses of marijuana.
Correspondent Andrew Holtz contributed to this report.
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