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Nov. 5, 1996 - Proposition 215 is Passed

This Day in Cannabis History:

It was 24 years ago today that California voters approved the nation's first-ever medical marijuana law—Proposition 215, aka the Compassionate Use Act.

Written & advocated by prominent activists Dennis Peron, Dr. Tod Mikuruya, Valerie Corral, Dale Gieringer, and others, Prop 215 was a ballot initiative that exempted individuals from criminal prosecution for cultivation or possession of cannabis if it had been recommended to them by a physician for the treatment of cancer, anorexia, AIDS, chronic pain, spasticity, glaucoma, arthritis, migraine, "or any other illness for which marijuana provides relief." This nebulous language at the end allowed cannabis to be recommended for even the most minor of maladies (such as insomnia or headaches), opening the law up to criticisms that it was merely a trojan horse for recreational use.

Yes 215 Button
Yes 215 Button [C069]

In addition to protecting patients, the law also shields doctors who choose to make such recommendations from any criminal charges or legal repercussions, as well as establishing the concept of "caregivers"—those who would grow/provide the cannabis to patients, which would eventually lead to the creation of medical marijuana collectives (the precursor to modern dispensaries).

Despite fierce opposition from elected officials, law enforcement, and anti-drug organizations, the measure passed by around a million votes. A series of legal challenges and DEA raids followed, but Prop 215 endured nevertheless and was eventually developed upon further by SB420 in 2004, which established a regulatory system that included the creation of legal dispensaries. Today, thanks to the groundwork laid by this landmark legislation, 35 states and several US territories including the District of Columbia now have legal medical marijuana.

The passage of Prop 215 was a watershed moment that forever changed the conversation about cannabis in America—helping to re-establish the plant's medicinal value and marking the beginning of the end of its prohibition.

Signed Prop 215 Poster
Signed Prop 215 Poster [P019]

World of Cannabis is proud to have a number of original artifacts from the "Yes on 215" campaign in our collection—most notably this poster autographed by two of the initiative's authors Dennis Peron and Dale Gieringer, as well as esteemed activists Jack Herer, Ed Rosenthal, Richard Eastman, and Jeff Joos.


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