Dr. Tod Mikuriya: Pioneer cannabis physician

Co-author of Prop 215, California’s Medical Marijuana Initiative

Obituary: Born Sept. 20, 1933; Died May 20, 2007

Tod Hiro Mikuriya, MD, one of the world’s foremost authorities on the therapeutic use of cannabis, died on Sunday after a multi-year battle with cancer. He was 73-years-old.

Dr. Mikuriya spent more than four decades investigating the medical utility of pot, beginning with an appointment as the Director for Marijuana Research for the National Institute of Mental Health in 1967. In 1972, he published Marijuana: Medical Papers 1839 – 1972, a collection of essays documenting the historical use of medicinal cannabis in Western culture. He  became an outspoken advocate for marijuana law reform, and played a key role in persuading the California legislature to decriminalize cannabis possession in 1975.

Mikuriya gained prominence among modern marijuana activists by speaking in favor of the medical use of pot for a wide variety of psychosomatic indications, such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and alcoholism.

Dr. Mikuriya was a co-author of California’s Proposition 215 initiative, and is credited with drafting the language that authorizes physicians to recommend cannabis for “any other illness for which marijuana provides relief,” a clause which remains unique to California’s medical MJ law.

After Proposition 215’s passage in 1996, Dr. Mikuriya became one of the most prolific recommenders of medicinal cannabis – a stance that made him a frequent target of both the California Medical Board and the federal government. In the decade since the law’s enactment, Dr. Mikuriya recommended marijuana to an estimated 9,000 patients.

In 2006, Mikuriya was a recipient of NORML’s “Lester Grinspoon Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Marijuana Law Reform” in recognition of his life’s work in support of the legalization of medicinal cannabis.

Mikuriya was also honored by Patients Out of Time, NORML and the California Coalition Against Prohibition. Mikuriya, shown here holding his CCAP award, was a staff researcher with President Nixon’s Shafer Commission (1972). He was among the first to recognize the value of cannabis as a safer substitute drug for alcoholics.  He was targeted by both the federal drug czar and the state medical board for his work with thousands of patients. “I’m so used to having my work taken for granted that it’s hard to know how to take being not taken for granted,” quipped Mikuriya, a few months before he passed away.

“Tod was a true pioneer of cannabis medicine,” said California NORML coordinator Dale Gieringer. “At a time when its medical use had been abandoned, he rediscovered the forgotten medical literature on cannabis and agitated to restore it to the pharmacopoeia. Tod later campaigned to make this a reality by helping to draft Prop. 215, and after its passage, he went on to found the modern practice of cannabis medicine.”


Author, cannabis expert witness, journalist, artist