October 18, 2016 By Fred Gardner On November 6, two days before the Gavinization of marijuana in California, we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of Prop 215, which legalized the herb for medical use. Prop 215 had been fiercely opposed by the law enforcement lobby and all the big-name politicians from Clinton on down. The only office-holder to support the initiative was San Francisco District Attorney Terence Hallinan. The voters supported it by a 56-44 margin.
On a panel at the New West Summit in San Francisco Oct. 14, I said, inaccurately, that Tod Mikuriya, MD, had drafted Prop 215’s first sentence —which protects patients using the herb to treat not just seven specific illnesses, but “any other illness for which marijuana provides relief”— and convinced co-authors Bill Panzer, Dale Gieringer, and Dennis Peron to include the crucial line. Gieringer later corrected me as follows:
“It’s simply not the case that were it not for Tod, Prop. 215 would not have allowed open-ended uses of MMJ. In fact, Dennis, myself, and everyone else closely involved in the writing of Prop. 215 were committed to this policy from the very beginning and never deviated from it. My own position derived from my knowledge about FDA regulations, which had always permitted any FDA-approved drug to be legally used in any indication, regardless of its labeled indication. I was determined that marijuana should not become the first drug to be legal only in certain specified uses. Dennis felt the same way, and I never once heard a contrary opinion expressed by anyone with Californians for Compassionate Use. Tod’s experience in medical practice certainly provided strong support for our position, but we never seriously questioned it. The early drafts of the CUA are in my files, and they are consistent on this subject.
“The initial version of State Sen. John Vasconcellos’s 1994 bill, which was drafted by Bill Panzer, likewise had open-ended uses. To our dismay, it was amended in committee at the insistence of the district attorneys so as to allow just four legal indications: HIV, cancer, glaucoma and M.S . (i.e. multiple sclerosis – this may have been a committee staffer’s mistake for “muscle spasms.”) Governor Pete Wilson vetoed the bill in 1994 and again in ’95, giving us the chance to do it right on the ballot in ’96.
“There were indeed some disputes about the wording of the CUA, but this was never one of them. It was only after the CUA had been submitted and finalized that Bill Zimmerman and company entered the scene and decided that open-ended uses (like unlimited plant numbers) might be a political liability. They accordingly introduced closed-list uses and fixed plant number limits in the initiatives they went on to sponsor in other states. The rest is history.”
I also dissed Sue Sisley, MD, by describing her as a psychiatrist when her specialty is, in fact, Family Practice. —FG
“A minister? How sinister!” —Pete Seeger