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Medical Marijuana Research Program Approved by California Senate


July 1997

The California Senate on June 4 voted 27-9 to approve a research program for the University of California to study the medical benefits and detriments of marijuana (S.B. 535). The prime sponsor was Senator John Vasconcellos (D-Santa Clara). A proposal to set up a 12-member task force to determine a "safe and affordable" distribution system for medical marijuana was removed before passage (Hallye Jordan, "Senate OKs Pot Research," San Jose Mercury News, June 5, 1997, p. 3B).

Because of its margin of approval, the bill has qualified as an urgency measure, meaning it will take effect immediately if passed into law. It is yet to be approved by the California Assembly or signed by Governor Pete Wilson, who has expressed reservations about the bill and has twice in recent years vetoed medical marijuana legislation. Wilson's two vetoes helped prompt advocates to sponsor Proposition 215, the medical marijuana initiative approved last year by California voters.

Supporters hope that Wilson may be persuaded to sign S.B. 535 by the recent endorsement of the measure by the California Medical Association (CMA), which represents more than 38,000 physicians in the state. The CMA, which opposed Proposition 215, announced their endorsement on May 21, saying their support was based largely on the need for research. Despite the CMA endorsement, Sean Walsh, Wilson's spokesman, said it remains doubtful that the governor will sign the bill. Dave Fratello, spokesman for Americans for Medical Rights, which helped push Proposition 215, said "CMA agrees with us it's going to take political pressure and state funding" to have California take the lead on medical marijuana research (Eric Bailey, "Doctors Group Backs Bill to Research Medical Pot Use," Los Angeles Times, May 21, 1997, p. A21).

California State Senator John Vasconcellos - State Capitol, Room 4061, Sacramento, CA 95814, Tel: (916) 445-9740, E-mail:

Americans for Medical Rights - Dave Fratello, (310) 394-2952.