State Actions
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Legislative Actions & Voter Initiatives

In the past two decades there have been numerous attempts on the state level to resolve the problem of medical access to marijuana.  This began in 1978 when the New Mexico legislature enacted the nation's first law recognizing marijuana's medical value.   More than thirty states followed suit but the state actions were ignored by the federal government.

This page provides information on these state laws.

In 1996 a new effort was launched -- the voter initiative.  California and Arizona enacted laws in that year.  The voters in  five additional states have passed similar initiatives, all by overwhelming margins. For further information on these voter initiatives please visit Marijuana as a Medicine - Legislation page at Carl Olsen's Marijuana Archive.



The first state to enact legislation recognizing marijuana's medical value was New Mexico in Feburary 1978. Three other states quickly followed suit that year: Florida, Louisiana, and Illinois. Since then a large number of states have enacted some type of legislation which recognizes marijuana's medical utility. Most of these bills established state programs of research. Very few states actually initiated the research, however, because of restrictive federal policies and expense.

It should be noted that some states have enacted more than one piece of legislation pertaining to marijuana's medical utility. This has caused some confusion about the total number of states with such legislation. The following table details the legislative votes for 34 state laws.

To put this number in perspective, it should be noted that passage of a Constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds majority, or 33, of the states. Using this comparison it is clear that support for controlled, medical access to marijuana is very strong indeed.

Perhaps even more remarkable is the support which these measures enjoyed. The issue has extraordinary levels of bi-partisan support. In fact, 87% of voting legislators supported these bills.

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Legislative Tallies for State Statutes
Recognizing Marijuana's Medical Value


State Bill Number House Vote Senate Vote Signed
Alabama S.B. 559 58-3 22-5 July 1979
Arizona H.B. 2020 54-7 24-6 April 1980
Arkansas Act 8 86-2 28-0 April 1981
California S.B. 184 61-13 30-5 July 1979*
Colorado H.B. 1042 60-0 30-4-1 June 1979
Connecticut H.B. 5090 117-28 27-9 July 1981
Florida H.B. 1237 96-6 Non-record vote June 1978
Georgia H.B. 1077 158-6 50-0 February 1980
Illinois H.B. 2625 140-16 45-4 September 1978
Iowa H.F. 512 68-23 43-4 June 1979
Louisiana H.B. 1187 84-7 unavailable July 1991*
Maine H.B. 665 121-17 23-8 August 1979*
Massachusetts S. 1582 unavailable unavailable Dec. 1991
Michigan S.B. 185 100-0 29-5 October 1979
Minnesota H.F. 2476 75-57 48-12 April 1980
Montana H.B. 463 87-1 Voice Vote April 1979
Nevada S.B. 470 38-2 19-1 June 1979
New Hampshire S.B. 21 Voice vote Voice vote April 1981
New Jersey A.B. 819 67-0 32-0 March 1981
New Mexico H.B. 329 53-9 33-1 February 1978
New York S.B. 1123-6 145-2 60-0 June 1980
North Carolina H.B. 1065 108-1-11 Voice vote June 1979
Ohio S.B. 184 87-7 28-2 March 1980
Oklahoma S.R. 7 Voice vote Voice vote March 1981
Oregon H.B. 2267 50-10 27-3 June 1979
Rhode Island H.B. 79.6072 100-0 40-10 May 1980
South Carolina S.B 350 Voice vote Voice vote February 1980
Tennessee H.B. 314 77-16-2 30-2-1 April 1981
Texas S.B. 877 Non-record vote 20-6 June 1979
Vermont H.B. 130 Voice vote Voice vote April 1981
Virginia S.B. 913 50-37 23-15 March 1979
Washington H.B. 259 92-5 43-2 March 1979
West Virginia S.B. 366 52-48 23-10 March 1979
Wisconsin L.B. 697 77-19 32-1 April 1982

* Several states have enacted legislation at different times which recognize marijuana's therapeutic utility. This tally sheet displays the date and votes for the original legislation. Additionally, some states have "sunset" provisions for state laws. Sunset provisions define a period of time in which the law is valid. After that period of time the law lapses unless reaffirmed by the legislature. Individuals are encouraged to clarify the current status of laws in their states.


California originally passed legislation in July 1979 which established a program of state sponsored research. Additional legislation was passed in 1992. Measures were passed in 1993 and 1994 which were vetoed by Governor Pete Wilson.


Louisiana originally enacted legislation in May 1978 which called for a program of legal access for victims of caner and glaucoma. In July 1991 this law was amended to include victims of paralysis.


The Maine legislature first passed a bill in August of 1979 which called for a program of state sponsored research. None was ever conducted. In 1992 the Maine assembly enacted a bill which allowed the cultivation of small amounts of marijuana for medical purposes. The bill was vetoed by the governor.


Washington state initally passed legisation in March 1979 which called for the establishment of a state-wide research program. Because of federal roadblocks little was ever done. In early 1996, S.B. 6744 was passed and signed into law. This bill authorized the expenditure of $130,000 to investigate the possibility of Washington state cultivating marijuana for medical studies.

Note: it has been reported that Alaska passed legislation in the early 1980s recognizing marijuana's medical utility. The Alliance for Cannabis Therapeutics has been unable to confirm this or obtain further details.

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Last Updated on 12/02/99 by Alliance for Cannabis Therapeutics