New marijuana laws in California hope to lessen the pain of those suffering from serious illnesses.

These pot smokers are taking advantage of a brand new law.

In November 1996 the people of California voted in favour of proposition 215 which made it legal to smoke marijuana with the approval of a doctor. 

Supporters say marijuana contains an ingredient which alleviates the pain and suffering of people with serious illnesses like AIDS and cancer.

Reporter Mark Little chats to some of those suffering from HIV and AIDS who are using medical marijuana to ease the pain of their illness and the side effects. One man comments

The marijuana helps me eat and increases my appetite and helps me with pain and depression.

A group in Santa Cruz, California now cultivates its own marijuana and delivers it free-of-charge to sick and dying clients. They stress that this is purely for medicinal purposes.

Not everyone is happy with the new law with opponents arguing that the medical arguments for pot smoking are weak. A spokesman for the Sacramento Sheriff's Department believes that the public was fooled into voting for a measure that they thought would be restricted to the very ill. 

American lawmakers believe proposition 215 could lead the nation down a slippery slope.

The strongest opposition to California's marijuana laws comes from The White House, with President Clinton preaching a zero tolerance message when it comes to drugs. The President and his advisors have been doing their best to prevent other states from following California's example. 

The authorities fear that the medical argument for marijuana is just a smoke screen.

Dennis Peron, founder of the Cannabis Club in San Francisco, makes no secret of his hopes for the future of the drug laws. 

I believe that marijuana will be legalised and I believe that probably from this will come the legalisation of marijuana... We have to prove that marijuana is indeed a healing herb as opposed to a dangerous drug.

The State of California in the USA has legalised the use of marijuana, but only if recommended by a doctor.

An RTÉ News report broadcast on 21 April 1997. The reporter is Mark Little.