medical marijuana in spite of obvious conflicts with federal law.
then, nineteen more states and the District of Columbia have enacted similar laws regarding medical marijuana use.
41 Generally, state medical marijuana programs protect individuals against arrest for prescribing or possessing small amounts of marijuana for personal medicinal use and for
selling it in approved dispensaries.
42 This significant deviation from prior
bans of marijuana follows a drastic shift in public opinion (and a somewhat
reluctant acceptance by federal authorities to obviate prosecution).
43 Medical marijuana laws also illustrate how states can alter the course of national
product bans through incremental legal changes.
Although the risks of using marijuana for medical purposes are not en-
tirely known, harms from tobacco use are well documented.
44 As early as
1938, studies linked cigarette smoking to higher cancer rates and heart dis-
45 By 1964, when the Surgeon General’s Advisory Committee on
Smoking and Health released its seminal report concerning tobacco effects
on health, nearly every state already had laws prohibiting the sale of ciga-
40. In October 2009, the Obama Administration sent a memo to federal prosecutors encouraging them not to prosecute those who distribute medical marijuana in accordance with
state law. David Johnston & Neil Lewis, Obama Administration to Stop Raids on Medical
Marijuana Dispensers, N.Y. TIMES, Mar. 18, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009
/03/19/us/ 19holder.html; see also Bob Egelko, U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Prop. 215 Challenge, S.F. GATE (May 19, 2009), http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/U-S-Supreme-Court
41. Nat’l Conference of State Legislatures, State Medical Marijuana Laws (updated
Mar. 2014), http://www.ncsl.org/research/health/state-medical-marijuana-laws.aspx.
42. Note that selling or possessing marijuana for other purposes remains illegal. Additionally, possessing small amounts of marijuana for recreational use is now legal in Washington and Colorado. Massachusetts voters also decriminalized possession of up to an ounce
of marijuana, making it instead a civil offense punishable by one-hundred dollar fine. Steve
LeBlanc, Mass. Activists Push to Fully Legalize Marijuana, BOSTON GLOBE, Nov. 28, 2013,
43. Art Swift, For the First Time, Americans Favor Legalizing Marijuana, GALLUP
(Oct. 22, 2013), http://www.gallup.com/poll/165539/first-time-americans-favor-legalizing-
44. U.S. GOV’T ACCOUNTABILITY OFFICE, TOBACCO USE AND PUBLIC HEALTH: FEDERAL
EFFORTS TO PREVENT AND REDUCE TOBACCO USE AMONG YOUTH (2003), available at
45. Johns Hopkins University Professor Raymond Pearl released a report about tobacco
use and poor health outcomes in 1938. Raymond Pearl, Tobacco Smoking and Longevity, 87
SCIENCE 216 (1938). Similarly, in 1939, Franz Hermann Müller of the University of Cologne’s Pathological Institute completed a study that found an extremely strong relationship
between smoking and lung cancer. Franz Hermann Müller, Tabakmißbrauch und Lungen-carcinom, 49 ZEITSCHRIFT FÜR KREBSFORSCHUNG 57 (1940). An article published in Reader’s Digest in 1952 is also noted for influencing public opinion about cigarettes. Roy Norr,
Cancer by the Carton, READER’S DIGEST 737 (1952).