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December 11, 1996

New Marijuana Laws in 2 States Prompt Caution

JAMA. 1996;276(22):1786-1787. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03540220010004

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TWO DAYS after the November elections, Anaheim, Calif, family physician S. Clarke Smith, MD, came face to face with his state's new Proposition 215.

"A young man with the requisite ponytail came in to my office complaining of back pain," Smith says. "He said he had muscle spasms and had had a laminectomy. He wanted marijuana."

Under the newly passed Proposition 215, the state of California now would allow Smith to write or merely tell the young man that he could smoke marijuana to relieve his back pain, without physician or patient having to fear state criminal reprisals.

Smith's response? "I told him that just because we had passed a proposition in California, it didn't mean the federal law didn't apply." But the patient still pushed him to put it in writing. "I told him no way," Smith says. "I said, 'I can't and I won't.' "

Wait Till the Dust