The medicinal use of marijuana has been decriminalized in 13 states around the country, including California. The State of California regulates medicinal marijuana, which is distributed through a number of independent and semi-independent dispensaries around the state. By some estimates, there are over 2000 dispensaries in California, greater than the number of Starbucks, McDonald’s, and 7-Eleven stores combined.
The first public medical marijuana dispensary in the State of California was founded in San Francisco in 1994. Known as the Cannabis Buyers Club, it was founded by the authors of Proposition 215, a medical doctor, and several associates. Also known as the Compassionate Use Act, Proposition 215 was passed in 1996, allowing doctors to recommend medicinal marijuana for patients that could benefit from it.
Since decriminalization, however, the medicinal marijuana industry has grown and now generates $100 million per year in tax revenue. Although many politicians and scientists dispute the benefits of medicinal marijuana, several studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of cannabis in treating pain, autoimmune disorders, and neurodegenerative diseases. A few studies have found that even smoked cannabis does not increase a patient’s risk of developing lung cancer.
Although no protections exist for the non-medicinal possession of marijuana, those who have a written or oral recommendation from their physician are allowed to possess it. People recommended medicinal marijuana can also obtain an optional card indicating their status.
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