A dozen years and counting...

Nov 06, 2008

Aaron Smith, California, Proposition 215

Yesterday marked the 12th anniversary of the passage of the first state law that effectively lifted criminal sanctions on the medical use of marijuana, California’s Proposition 215. In the years since 56% of California voters decided to stop criminalizing the ill, and public support for legal access to medical marijuana has grown to nearly 80%. That public sentiment has translated into policy reforms in at least 12 other states.

One would think that California’s law enforcement officials would do just that: enforce the law. But some of them spend time and even tax dollars lobbying against the state’s medical marijuana laws.


The California Narcotics Officers’ Association’s (CNOA) position paper on medical marijuana asserts, “There is no justification for using marijuana as a medicine.” The CNOA ignores hundreds of studies on the efficacy of marijuana as medicine and the dozens of credible scientific and medical organizations that have publicly supported medical marijuana access.

Disinformation about medical marijuana isn't limited to privately funded Web sites like The Sheriff’s Department in California’s capital county uses local tax dollars to maintain a Web page that claims, “There are no medically accepted uses for smoking marijuana.”

The medical community doesn’t share the sheriff’s medical opinion. Even the U.S. government’s Institute of Medicine (IOM) found, "Nausea, appetite loss, pain, and anxiety are all afflictions of wasting and all can be mitigated by marijuana ... there are patients with debilitating symptoms for whom smoked marijuana might provide relief."

The Sacramento Sheriff’s Department makes even more bizarre claims in its attempt to play doctor on the Internet -- such as claiming that marijuana could cause “increased facial and body hair” in women or that it can cause “diminished or complete loss of sexual pleasure.” Fortunately for the 14.5 million people who use marijuana, none of these far-fetched claims have been substantiated by science.

The sad fact is that California’s law enforcement lobby began campaigning against Proposition 215 in 1996 and when voters didn’t side with them, some its members never stopped.