Fourteen states and the District of Columbia have enacted what the Marijuana Policy Project, a nonprofit that advocates for liberalization of U.S. marijuana laws, considers “effective” laws allowing the use of medical marijuana. Several of the laws offer people with the proper documentation protection from being arrested or prosecuted, while others allow defendants to prove in court that they were in compliance with the law by carrying only the allowable amount of marijuana.
The law approved in 1998 requires patients to register with the state and provide a statement signed by a physician that the patient has been diagnosed with a debilitating medical condition and that other approved medications were considered. The law requires patients and caregivers to register with the state’s Department of Health and Social Services. Patients are allowed one ounce of marijuana in usable form and six marijuana plants, but no more than three may be producing usable marijuana at any one time.
Under the California law passed in 1996, patients can be exempted from arrest if they carry voluntary identification cards, but a written recommendation from a doctor can lead to charges being dismissed. Patients are required to have approval of a physician who’s decided the patient would benefit from medical marijuana to treat a qualifying condition. Patients and caregivers are verified through the state’s Medical Marijuana Program website.
The law passed in 2000 allows patients to avoid prosecution if they’re carrying a registry card certifying they’ve been diagnosed with a debilitating condition by a physician before their arrest and “advised” by the doctor that they “might benefit” from using medical marijuana. Patients and caregivers are registered with the Department of Public Health and Environment and are allowed two usable ounces of marijuana and six plants, only three of which may be mature at any given time.
Hawaii’s law, passed in 2000, protects patients from being prosecuted if they’re carrying a registry card. Patients are required to provide their medical records or a statement signed by their doctor that the patient has a debilitating condition and the potential benefits of the marijuana use would likely outweigh the dangers to health. Patients are registered through the Department of Public Safety and may possess seven plants, with three mature enough to produce one ounce of marijuana.
Maine’s law was passed in 1999 and provides an exemption from prosecution if patients have a “usable amount” of medical marijuana and can provide a copy of the appropriate medical record or a written note from a doctor. The documentation must show that a patient has a qualifying condition, that the doctor has discussed the risks and benefits, and that the patient has been advised they could benefit from the use of medical marijuana. Patients are allowed 2.5 ounces of marijuana and six plants, only three of which can be mature.
Michigan’s 2008 law allows patients to avoid prosecution if they can provide a registry card from the Department of Community Health. Patients are required to have valid documentation from their doctor that they’ve been diagnosed with a debilitating condition and are likely to benefit from the use of medical marijuana. Patients are allowed 2.5 “usable ounces” of marijuana and up to 12 plants.
Montana’s 2004 law provides an exemption from prosecution if patients have a registry card. Written documentation from a doctor is required, and it must say that the person has been diagnosed with a debilitating condition and that the potential benefits would outweigh the possible health risks. Patients and caregivers must register with the state’s Department of Public Health and Human Services, and patients may possess one usable ounce of marijuana and six plants.
Patients in Nevada, where a law went into effect in 2001, can avoid being prosecuted if they have a registry card. They must have been diagnosed with a qualifying condition within 12 months before their arrest and have been advised by their doctor that marijuana may help alleviate the symptoms or effects of that condition. Patients registered with the departments of Motor Vehicles and Agriculture are allowed one usable ounce and seven plants, three of which can be mature. Patients are allowed to argue that larger amounts are medically necessary.
New Jersey’s law, passed in January and pending implementation, will protect registered users from arrest and prosecution for the medical use of marijuana. The law will establish two statewide growing facilities and four dispensaries. The state’s Department of Health and Senior Services will oversee the program. Users will be permitted two ounces of marijuana over a 30-day period. Patient registration begins in November, and the state hopes to have photo identification cards distributed by the end of the year. Marijuana is expected to be available by July 2011.
The New Mexico law, enacted in 2007, provides users with a registry card and requires them to be in possession of no more than an “adequate supply” of marijuana, defined as no more than six ounces of usable marijuana, four mature plants and 12 seedlings, or a three-month supply of topical treatment. A patient must provide written proof that their doctor believes the patient has a debilitating medical condition and that the medical benefits of marijuana use are likely to outweigh the risks.
Medical marijuana users in Oregon, which passed its law in 1998, are exempt from prosecution if they have a registry card from the Department of Human Services, but can mount a defense if they don’t have a card but are in compliance with the law allowing 24 ounces of usable marijuana, six mature plants and 18 seedlings. Written documentation from the patient’s lawyer is required, stating the person has a debilitating medical condition and medical marijuana could ease the symptoms or effects of the condition. Patients must register with the Department of Human Services.
Rhode Island’s 2007 law provides registry cards for users from the Department of Health and requires medical records and written documentation from the patient’s doctor that they’ve been diagnosed with a debilitating medical condition and may benefit from the medical use of marijuana. Patients must register with the Department of Health and are allowed 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana and 12 plants. Unregistered users can also argue that they’re in compliance with the law.
Vermont’s 2004 law requires possession of a registry card through the state’s Department of Public Safety. Patients must sign an application and provide medical records to establish a qualifying medical condition. A doctor is contacted to confirm that a patient-doctor relationship exists and that the patient does indeed have a legitimate medical condition.
Washington’s 1998 law provides patients a legal defense if they’re complying with an unspecified “60-day supply” of medical marijuana. Patients must get a statement signed by their doctor or a copy of pertinent medical records with the physician’s opinion that the benefits of medical marijuana use would be expected to outweigh any health risks.
The District of Columbia’s medical marijuana law, passed in May and awaiting implementation, allows for up to eight dispensaries to provide marijuana to qualified patients. The facilities would be limited to growing up to 95 plants at a time, and patients would be permitted to possess up to two ounces of marijuana at a time. Patients must have a qualifying medical condition and written recommendation from a physician recommending the use of marijuana as treatment.