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J Public Health Policy. 2002;23(4):413-39.

State medical marijuana laws: understanding the laws and their limitations.

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RAND Corporation, 1700 Main Street, Santa Monica, California 90407, USA.


Significant attention has been given to the debate regarding allowances for medical marijuana use since the 1996 California and Arizona ballot initiatives. State medical marijuana allowances, however, have existed since the mid-1970s. Much of the current debate stems from confusion about the various ways states approach the issue. In this paper, we present original legal research on current state medical marijuana laws identifying four different ways states statutorily enable the medical use of marijuana. We discuss the tension these approaches have with federal law as well as their implications regarding real access for patients. In addition, we present information on how a small number of states are trying to deal with the issue of access within the context of their medical marijuana laws, and discuss the implication of various supply approaches on the enforcement of other state marijuana laws.

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