NewsBriefs BUTTONS

Medical Marijuana Bills and Initiatives Update


February 1998


Colorado Citizens for Compassionate Cannabis (CCCC) has begun circulating petitions to put the Compassionate Therapeutic Cannabis Act (CTCA) on the ballot. The act would permit patients to grow or buy cannabis for use under the care of a physician. The act also divides "marijuana" into the categories cannabis, cannabis concentrate, and hemp, in order to address hemp as an industrial issue rather than a drug matter.

CTCA was introduced to counter a medical marijuana proposal by Americans for Medical Rights which the CCCC feels would endanger patients because it does not provide for the safe acquisition of marijuana aside from limited growth of such plants.

Laura Kriho, Colorado Citizens for Compassionate Cannabis - P.O. Box 729, Nederland, CO 80466, Tel: (303) 258-3990, E-mail: <>. Text of the CCCC initiative can be found at <>.

Coloradans for Medical Rights - P.O. Box 18863, Denver, CO 80218, Tel: (303) 861-4224, Fax: (303) 864-0890.


ACT UP, an AIDS activist group, says it will obtain the necessary 17,000 signatures in time to put their medical marijuana measure, Initiative 59, on the September ballot; the deadline is May 15 (Ronald Hanson, "Medical Marijuana May Again Face D.C. Voters," Washington Times, January 12, 1998, p. C7; Press release, "DC Activists Renew Rx Marijuana Effort," ACT UP Washington, February 5, 1998).

A similar initiative led by ACT UP last fall failed to gather enough signatures to be put on the ballot. (see "Washington, DC Medical Marijuana Initiative Fails to Get Enough Signatures; New Signature-Gathering Efforts Planned," NewsBriefs, January 1998).

A second medical marijuana initiative is being sponsored by Americans for Medical Rights (AMR). Dave Fratello at AMR told NewsBriefs that on March 4 AMR had a public hearing on their initiative text. AMR expects to have their petition form approved at the April meeting of the DC Board of Election and Ethics. Their deadline for turning in signatures will be the first week of July.

ACT UP DC, Steve Michael - 825 5th St., NE, Suite A, Washington, DC 20002, Tel: (202) 547-9404, E-mail: <>. Text of Initiative 59 can be found at <>.

DC Branch of Americans for Medical Rights - D.C. Voters for Medical Rights, 1450 Harvard St., Suite A, Washington D.C., 20009.


Governor Lawton Chiles (D) and the Florida Cabinet unanimously adopted a resolution calling on voters in Florida to reject a medical marijuana initiative in that state. A similar provision was defeated by the Florida Constitution Revision Commission on a 30-1 vote last December. The petition drive for a medical marijuana amendment to the Florida Constitution is being led by Floridians for Medical Rights, chaired by Toni Leeman (Bill Kaczor, "Cabinet to Oppose Medical Use of Marijuana," Miami Herald, January 22, 1998).

Supporters have four years to collect 435,100 signatures to place the initiative on the ballot. Leeman told NewsBriefs that collection of the first 10% of the signatures triggers a state Supreme Court review of the amendment language. The proposed amendment would allow patients with cancer, AIDS, anorexia, glaucoma and other illnesses to use marijuana if their physician certifies that the drug is appropriate in their cases.

Governor Lawton Chiles, Office of the Governor, The Capitol, Tallahassee FL, 32399, Tel: (904) 488-4441

Floridians for Medical Rights - P.O. Box 290054, Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33329-0054, Tel: (954) 763-1799.


Rep. David Tarnas (D-South Koala) sponsored HB 2403, a proposal to legalize the medical use of marijuana. On February 5, the House Health committee heard testimony from chronically ill people who would benefit from the law and from law enforcement officials who objected to the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Tarnas' office told NewsBriefs that on February 12 the committee held the bill from further action (Helen Alton, "Panel defers Action on Marijuana Bill," Honolulu Star-Bulletin, February 5, 1998).

Once the bill was placed on hold, there is little potential for movement. However Rep. Tarnas has introduced a resolution requesting that the medical use of marijuana be recognized by the state.

Rep. David Tarnas, Hawai'i State Capitol, Room 326, Honolulu HI 96813, Tel: (808) 586-8510.

Hawai'i House Health Committee Chair Alex Santiago, Hawai'i State Capitol, 415 South Beretania St., Room 418, Honolulu HI, 96813, Tel: (808) 586-6380.


Due to a catastrophic statewide ice storm, Portland officials failed to transmit to the State Capitol a verification of signatures obtained by Mainers for Medical Rights (MMR) to put a medical marijuana initiative on the ballot in November. Mainers for Medical Rights won a suit against the city for delaying the verification of signatures. Superior Court Judge Donald Alexander ruled on February 24 that the city has 30 business days to check the signatures. If the city finds that MMR reached the required amount of valid signatures, the medical marijuana initiative will be placed on the November ballot (Susan Kinzie, "Medical Marijuana Advocates Frustrated, " Bangor Daily News, February 14, 1998; Peter Pochna, "Judge to Decide Whether Petition Can Miss Deadline," Portland Press Herald, February 14, 1998, "City Sued for Alleged Mishandling of Medicinal Marijuana Petitions, Portland Press-Herald, February 12, 1998).

Maine Vocals, led by Don Christen, led a second initiative effort to legalize medical marijuana. However, they failed to collect enough signatures for their initiative. Christen objects to MMR's ballot initiative because, in his words, "Their initiative is very restrictive. It is not workable for the people ... they do not have a supply program." Christen expressed his frustration that MMR did not consult with grassroots activists like Maine Vocals who had been working on marijuana medicalization.

Mainers for Medical Rights - Stephanie Hart, R.R. 4, Box 5375, Sidney ME, 04332, Tel: (207) 547-5031.

Maine Vocals - Don Christen, P.O. Box 189, Anson, ME 04911-0189, Tel: (207) 696-8167.


Reps. Timothy Robertson and Margaret Lynch cosponsored a medical marijuana bill in the New Hampshire legislature in January. HB 1559, defeated in the Criminal Justice committee on a vote of 17-2 on February 17, would have allowed seriously and terminally ill patients to cultivate and use marijuana upon a doctor's recommendation. Despite its failure in committee, the bill will go to the House floor for a vote. The House vote will be taken on March 19 ("Witnesses Oppose Bill That Would Ban Drugs Derived From Marijuana," Boston Globe, January 21, 1998).

Rep. Timothy Robertson, Room 202, Legislative Office Buildings, Concord NH, 03301, Tel: (603) 271-3529.

Rep. Margaret Lynch, Finance Committee, Legislative Office Building, Room 204, Concord NH, 03301, tel: (603) 271-3165.


Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan), chair of the New York State Assembly Committee on Health, introduced a medical marijuana bill, HB 6407. The bill would enable physicians to certify patients to possess up to eight ounces of marijuana for medicinal purposes. He told the New York Bar Association that he finds it illogical that Marinol®, the active ingredient of which is THC, which is the principal psychoactive compound in marijuana, is FDA approved, but marijuana is not. Gottfried emphasized his support of "medicalization, not legalization." The bill is pending in the Assembly Health Committee with no immediate plans to move out of committee. Rep. Gottfried's office told NewsBriefs that he did not want it to be voted on until it has a Senate sponsor (Marilynn Larkin, "Experts Support Legalizing Medical Marijuana," Reuters, January 29, 1998).

NY State Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, Legislative Office Building, Room 822, Albany NY, 12248, Tel: (518) 455-4941 or (212) 807-7900.


Oregon physician Rick Bayer has filed an initiative to legalize marijuana for medical purposes. The Oregon initiative is being funded by Americans for Medical Rights. Dr. Bayer's initiative would allow patients to grow and possess up to three marijuana plants upon registering with the State Health Division. Supporters have until July 2 to collect 73,000 signatures in order to qualify the measure for the November 4 ballot (Gail Kinsey Hill, "Ballot Proposal Would Allow Pot for Medical Use," Oregonian, February 19,1998; Maureen O'Hagan, "Not Just For Hippies Anymore," Willamette Week, February 18, 1998).

Dr. Rick Bayer - 6800 SW Canyon Drive, Portland, OR 97225, Tel: (503) 292-1035, E-mail: <>


On February 26, Rob Killian, M.D., M.P.H., of Tacoma filed an initiative to legalize the medical use of marijuana (Hunter T. George, "Medical Marijuana Backers Try Again," Herald (Everett), February 27, 1998; Associated Press, "Marijuana, Anti-Car Tax Initiative Filed," Seattle Times, February 27, 1998).

Killian sponsored a broader measure last year, Initiative 685 (I685), which would have allowed physicians to recommend marijuana, heroin, LSD and other Schedule I drugs to their patients if research proved the drug effective in treating a serious or terminal illness. Numerous state and federal officials opposed the measure. I685 failed to pass a statewide ballot on November 4, 1997, receiving only 40% of the vote. The new measure deals strictly with the medical use of marijuana (see "Drug Policy Reform Measure in Washington Defeated," NewsBriefs, Nov.-Dec. 1997).

Killian's new proposal is modeled after SB 6271, sponsored by Senator Jeanne Kohl (D-Seattle). Kohl's bill stalled in the legislature with many lawmakers saying that voters sent a strong message when they defeated Initiative 685 (Michael Ko, "Chance Slim for Marijuana Bill," Seattle Times, January 22, 1998).

Dr. Rob Killian, Washington Citizens for Medical Rights - P.O. Box 2346, Seattle, WA 98111, Tel: (206) 781-7716, Fax: (206) 324-3101.

State Sen. Jeanne Kohl - 424 John A. Seherberg Building, P.O. Box 40482, Olympia, WA 98504, Tel: (360) 786-7670.