The History of Legal Cannabis for Medicinal Use
While cannabis has been used medicinally for thousands of years, its history as a medicine in the United States is much briefer. Though used widely during the 19th century, usually in tincture form, it became less common after the introduction of aspirin as a painkiller. With the passage by Congress of the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, marijuana became all but illegal even for medical use. Only in recent decades have policies begun to shift in favor of legal cannabis.
Today, there are 16 states where medical cannabis is legal, plus the District of Columbia. But it has been a long and arduous road.
Initial Moves toward Legal Cannabis
State governments were not the first to legalize medical cannabis. Under the Carter administration in 1978, the federal government instituted a program using cannabis as an Investigational New Drug (IND).
Under this program, individuals could apply for an IND approval to use medical cannabis. A few dozen were approved, mostly for patients suffering from nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy, or due to chronic pain or spasms related to spinal injuries (many of whom were Vietnam veterans).
This program actually supplied cannabis directly to patients via the federal government at taxpayer expense. At the time of this writing, there are still 5 active patients in the program who continue to receive their cannabis from the US government. However, after a massive increase in applications in the late 1980s as the AIDS epidemic spread, the first Bush administration effectively ended the federal IND program for medical cannabis.
New Mexico: The First Legal Cannabis State
Also in 1978, New Mexico became the first state to allow the medical use of marijuana, primarily for glaucoma and chemotherapy-induced nausea. Many other states soon followed, but all had to operate under FDA guidelines that required any such program to operate as a research study.
While roughly 250 patients in New Mexico did eventually receive cannabis under this program, deep-rooted opposition from the federal government and the FDA made this and other state programs of the late 70s and early 80s essentially unworkable.
With the passage of Proposition 215 in 1996, California became the first state to pass a medical cannabis law that operated outside the restrictions of the FDAs IND requirements. Though this law has been challenged and endured attacks from the federal government, it has endured. 15 additional legal cannabis states have followed in California’s footsteps, although each state’s program differs in its particulars.
The 16 states (plus the District of Columbia) where medical cannabis is legal are currently:
- California (1996)
- Alaska (1998)
- Oregon (1998)
- Washington (1998)
- Maine (1999)
- Colorado (2000)
- Hawaii (2000)
- Nevada (2000)
- Montana (2004)
- Vermont (2004)
- Rhode Island (2006)
- New Mexico (2007)
- Michigan (2008)
- Arizona (2010)
- District of Columbia (2010)
- New Jersey (2010)
- Delaware (2011)
If you are suffering from the debilitating effects of one of the 16 approved conditions in New Mexico and would like to apply to the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program, Albuquerque Integrative Medicine is here to help. Please call us at 505-570-5447 to schedule an appointment today.