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Medicinal hemp in the USA

As of 2008, thirteen states have passed laws allowing the medicinal use of cannabis.
In most cases, the changes in state law were made through ballot initiatives – where voters can petition proposed law changes to be included on state and local ballots, allowing the public to vote for or against them.

Interestingly, where figures on such ballot initiatives are available, they show that laws in favour of medicinal hemp laws are approved by more voters and receive a greater percentage of the vote than any successful Presidential candidate in recent memory!


  • November 1998 – approved by 58% of voters
  • Became law on March 4, 1999
  • Legalised possession, cultivation and use of hemp for patients who have received a certificate from a doctor confirming they can benefit from the medical use of cannabis.


  • November 5, 1996 – 56% of voters approved Proposition 215, also called the Compassionate Use Act.
  • The law removes state-level criminal penalties on the use, possession and cultivation of hemp by patients who possess a “written or oral recommendation” from their physician that he or she “would benefit from medical marijuana.”


  • November 2000 – 54% of voters approved Amendment 20, which amends the Colorado State constitution to allow the medical use of marijuana.


  • March 2000 – Hawaii Senate passed Senate Bill 862 by a 13-12 vote.
  • Became law on June 14, 2000.
  • Patients can possess a maximum of 1 ounce of usable hemp and a maximum of 7 plants.


  • November 2, 1999 – 62% of voters approved Question 2
  • Question 2 became law April 2, 2002
  • Allows patients or their primary physicians to possess a maximum of 2.5oz  (70g) of usable hemp and a maximum of 6 plants.


  • 2003 – Maryland legislature passed “medical hemp affirmative defence law.”
  • If someone is being prosecuted by the state on certain marijuana-related charges, then the court is required by law to consider a defendant’s medical necessity.


  • November 4 2008 – Michigan voters passed a measure allowing the use of medicinal hemp for patients with debilitating medical conditions.
  • Also required Michigan’s health department to create a registry of qualified patients. Growing hemp was also approved, for registered individuals using secure facilities


  • November 2, 2004 – voters approved Initiative 148
  • Eliminates criminal sanctions at the state level for medical hemp authorized by a patient’s physician., allowing possession of up to 6 plants.


  • November 7, 2000 – voters approved Question 9, amending the state constitution to allow for medical marijuana.
  • Patients may possess a maximum of 1oz (28g) of usable hemp and grow a maximum of 7 plants

New Mexico

  • April 2, 2007 – New Mexico’s Governor approved Senate Bill 523, which legalised medical hemp for patients authorized by the state.


  • November 1998 – voters approved the state’s Medical hemp Act.

Rhode Island

  • January 3, 2006 – voters approved the state’s Medical hemp Act, which legalised medical hemp at the state level.
  • Patients can possess a maximum of 2.5oz (70g) of hemp and a maximum of 12 plants


  • November 1998 – voters approved Initiative 692, which legalised the use, possession and cultivation of hemp for patients with a medical certificate.
  • Patients prescribed medical hemp may possess a 60 day supply.


  • July 1, 2004 – Senate Bill 76 went into effect, which legalised medical hemp at the state level.
  • Senate Bill 76 became law May 26, 2004
  • Patients or their primary doctor are allowed to possess a maximum of 2oz (56g) of usable hemp and a maximum of 3 plants.

Some other interesting facts:

  1. Cannabis was listed in the United States Pharmacopoeia from 1850 until 1942.
  2. Under federal law, hemp remains illegal throughout the United States and is not approved for prescription as medicine.
  3. The United States Supreme Court has ruled that the federal government has the right to regulate and criminalize marijuana, including in the 13 states listed above, even when the hemp in question is being used for medical purposes.
  4. The United States federal government does not currently recognize any legitimate medical use, although there are currently seven patients across the entire USA who are permitted by Federal law to receive medicinal hemp for various illnesses (through the Compassionate Investigational New Drug program that was closed to new patients in 1991 by the George H. W. Bush administration).
  5. In 1988, Francis L. Young, an administrative law judge with the United States Drug Enforcement Agency, declared that “in its natural form, [cannabis] is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known.”
  6. However, “smoked” hemp is still not approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration.
"Why is hemp against the law? It grows naturally upon our planet.
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