Ten states, including Hawaii, have adopted medical marijuana laws. These laws allow certain individuals to cultivate and use marijuana for medical purposes. These marijuana users must comply with the respective state's medical marijuana law, including being certified or registered for use due to certain specified medical conditions.

Federal law, however, prohibits the cultivation and any use of marijuana. Particularly nettlesome for users in the ten states that do have medical marijuana laws is the issue of distribution of marijuana.

This study examines various issues including:

  • Distinguishing between legal and illegal marijuana use, including enforcement of medical marijuana laws
  • Experience of other states in obtaining access to marijuana supplied by the federal government for therapeutic research
  • Potential medical marijuana distribution systems
  • Other inherent difficulties of compliance with medical marijuana laws including:
    • Acquisition
    • Possession
    • Transport
    • Adequate supply
  • Distribution

Several models of distribution are examined. The national model (as embodied in the Netherlands) is almost impossible to transfer to an individual state. There are almost insurmountable obstacles involving legal, cost, and pharmaceutical issues. The cooperative intra-state model (embodied in several California marijuana cooperatives) appears to be the most promising. Currently, in California, it is working.

In the existing cooperative intra-state model as enacted in California

  • Marijuana must not be sold under any circumstances. All marijuana must be grown and distributed free of charge.
  • All aspects and provisions of the State's medical use of marijuana law must be strictly complied with.
  • Nothing must cross state boundaries. All aspects of the cultivation and use of medical marijuana must remain strictly within the State. All soil, seeds, and any materials and supplies used in cultivating the marijuana must originate and remain within the State.

However, the continuing success of the cooperative intra-state model in California and its implementation in Hawaii depends entirely on the actions of the United States Supreme Court. The Court is currently hearing a case involving such a marijuana cooperative based in California. The Court may throw out the concept of marijuana cooperatives altogether. It may approve it entirely as is. Or it could impose various restrictions that may range from easy to impossible for states to implement. At this point, no one knows what the Supreme Court will do. Consequently, it would seem to be premature and unproductive to draft detailed legislation now to accommodate scenarios that no one can accurately anticipate and that may take on widely divergent forms.