The 25th Anniversary of Prop 215: Where We Stand, Where We’re Headed

Hard to believe, but this year marks 25 years since the passage of Proposition 215, the landmark California medical marijuana legislation that granted residents access to this life-changing plant medicine. Now, a quarter-century later, it’s hard to remember how different the landscape once was. In the wake of Prop 215, nearly three-quarters of U.S. states now allow medical cannabis, and an overwhelming number of Americans support at least some form of legalization.

Because our Sacramento dispensary is committed to broadening access to medical cannabis for those who might benefit from it, we’d like to celebrate this milestone by looking back at Prop 215 and surveying the current landscape.

The 25th Anniversary of Prop 215: Story of a Landmark Cannabis Bill

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Like most legislation, the story of Prop 215 is about a group of individuals banding together for a common cause. Still, many historians point to a single person as the original motivator behind Prop 215. And if you read our Sacramento dispensary blog, you may already know his name: Dennis Peron.

As the organizer of a commune in the Castro, Peron had been a noteworthy San Francisco cannabis supporter since the 1970s. But after the AIDS-related death of his partner, Jonathan West, Peron applied his organizational skills to the legalization of the cannabis-based care that had eased West’s passing.

Efforts began with Peron’s organizing San Francisco’s Proposition P, affirming the city’s support for medical cannabis. While the 1991 bill—which passed with a healthy 79% “Yes” vote—didn’t carry the weight of law, it did help kickstart the California medical marijuana movement. Soon other cities followed suit, sparking hopes for decisive action by then-Governor Pete Wilson.

Unfortunately, that’s not quite what happened. While the California legislature moved to adopt two medical cannabis laws, they were both vetoed by the governor.

It was time to try a new approach. Working with a coalition of activists, physicians, lawyers, and others, Peron resolved to bring the question directly to the people in the 1996 election. 

You know the rest of the story: Prop 215 passed with more than 55% of the vote. As Peron himself put it: “The stars aligned for medical marijuana.” The passage triggered a landslide: By 1998, Alaska, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and the District of Columbia had all passed medical cannabis laws.

It’s no stretch to say that Prop 215 led the way. By taking an organized but incremental approach, Dennis Peron helped initiate a cannabis groundswell. As a result, today’s landscape is vastly different than it was 25 years ago. No fewer than 36 states—and several U.S. territories—permit the compassionate use of medical cannabis; several others permit the use of low-THC CBD products, as well.

What’s next? Obviously, the end goal is federal legalization. But while the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed banking protections for the cannabis industry, there’s no guarantee the Senate will pass it. Closer to home, we’re excited about a California medical marijuana development with a real impact on some Sacramentans.

Sacramento Dispensary News: How SB 34 Strengthens Prop 215’s Legacy

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Instrumental though Prop 215 was, it didn’t answer every question around the use of medical cannabis. That’s why Governor Gavin Newsom’s 2020 signing of B 34 was a big deal. By permitting businesses such as ours to make tax-free donations of medical marijuana to those in need, it significantly increases our ability to serve our community’s neediest. 

In fact, our Sacramento dispensary has a very personal stake in SB 34. Much of the credit for its passage goes to Weed for Warriors, an incredible organization that fights for safe, sustainable, and effective cannabis-based care for those who’ve served their country. We’re proud to call Weed for Warriors one of our partners in the movement to make the California medical marijuana program a model for compassionate use.

Do you have questions about medical cannabis? Reach out anytime. We’re here to help!