Fifteen states and the District of Columbia have passed medical marijuana legislation
either through a ballot initiative or through their respective state legislature. These states have
chosen to disregard the federal Controlled Substances Act by legally sanctioning the growth,
possession, and use of marijuana by sick patients suffering from diseases like AIDS and cancer.
This choice has sparked polarized outrage and compassionate support regarding the issue
because over 300,000 individuals are using a substance prohibited by the federal government;
furthermore, the medicinal states are sanctioning this behavior, and as a result, breaking federal
law. The question of why a state would be willing to accept such a risk and what motivates such
legislation logically follows.
This thesis attempts to answer those questions by isolating California, Michigan, and
Minnesota as case studies of policy motivations. By first reviewing relevant legal history and
case law, we can begin to understand the growth of public support and the emergence of the first
piece of compassionate legislation. Then a deeper analysis of the ballot initiative and political
cultures as motivating factors, as well as others, can be addressed. This is ultimately followed by
a conclusion of predictions and future implications.