Medical marijuana is slowly becoming the norm in the United States, with 40 states (and the District of Colombia) now having some type of law allowing for its use. Of course, not all medical marijuana programs are created equal, and a number of them—including those in New York, Texas and Georgia—have received some serious flack for their limitations.
Every year, the Americans for Safe Access Foundation (ASA), an organization that lobbies for the advancement of legal medical marijuana therapeutics and research, releases a report on the state of medical cannabis access across the U.S. Each state is scored on a wide variety of criteria, including access to medicine, patient rights, civil protection for users, ease of navigation, functionality, consumer safety and prover requirements.
According to CNBC, this year, no state achieved an "A" grade, but 10 earned a "B+ or "B." See which ones came out on top.
According to ASA: "California made significant strides for its medical cannabis patients in 2015 by signing into law a state- wide centrally regulated dispensary system that included many product safety features. Now the task for the state is to implement the accompanying regulations in a thoughtful but timely manner. While California is still the best place in the country for patients to receive legal protections and gain the most timely access after physician diagnosis, the state still lags behind on providing civil discrimination protections for its patients."
According to ASA: "Colorado does well in most aspects of providing safe and legal access to its medical can- nabis patients. In terms of the law, the biggest oversight is the lack of civil discrimination protection in the areas of housing, employment, and child custody. On the regulatory side of things, the state should improve its product safety requirements by having the state evenly enforce the regulations across the state instead of relying on city and county health officials to do so, which has resulted in the unequal enforcement of these regulations."
According to ASA: "With the adoption of dispensary legislation, Hawaii has done a good job of meeting most the com- ponents that ASA looks for in a medical cannabis program. However, the state falls short in the area of product safety for its dispensary program.Additionally, the state needs to improve its system for providing registry ID cards to patients, as the state now requires possession of an ID card for legal protections, yet patients are reporting lengthy delays in obtaining their cards."
According to ASA: "The Illinois medical cannabis program has recently seen the opening of its first wave of medical cannabis dispensaries and adopted some of the best product safety regulations in the country. While this shows that the regulatory agencies have done an admirable job at implementing the program, statutory hurdles still are inhibited from better serving patients. The legislature should allow patients the right to cultivate their own medicine and replace the lengthy list of qualifying conditions with a simple provision that allows physicians the right to recommend medical cannabis therapy to any patient for whom the benefits would outweigh the risks."
According to ASA: "The thoughtful adoption of product safety guidelines has earned Maryland a perfect score in this area, but the state still falls short in current access to medicine and overall patient rights. Given that the state is likely to have a delay in the licensing of dispensaries and cul- tivators due to a high number of applicants, Maryland should look for ways of facilitating patient access now."
According to ASA: "Massachusetts fares well in most categories, but falls short in the area of patient rights. While the state is one of just three medical cannabis jurisdictions to allow physicians the right to recommend to any patient for whom the benefits outweigh the risks, the law fails to protect patients in the areas of employment, housing, child custody, and organ transplant discrimination. In addition to adopting these protections, the state’s limitations on home cultivation coupled with the relatively slow licensure of dispensaries has also harmed patient access."
According to ASA: "Nevada has done an admirable job in implementing its in-state production and dispensaries with good product safety regulations, but still falls short in the area of protecting patient rights. The state needs to protect patients from civil discrimination by adding housing, employment, child custody, and organ transplant protections."
According to ASA: "New Mexico addressed one of the major issues hampering its medical cannabis program by nearly doubling the number of dispensing locations in the state. However, the state still lags behind in the area of civil discrimination protections for patients."
According to ASA: "Oregon continues to have one of the strongest medical cannabis programs for patients in the nation. The state would be wise to maintain this impressive program that serves the needs of its patients and avoid temptation to merge the medi- cal program with the state’s recently adopted adult use program. Oregon could make its program even better by including civil discrimi- nation protections for patients in the areas of employment, housing, organ transplants, and child custody, as well as adding recall and adverse event protocols to its product safety guidelines."
According to ASA: "Despite the severe scaling back of Washington’s medical cannabis program, the state still continues be one of the best states in the country for patient access on a number of fronts. While it was necessary for Washington to adopt a state regulated dispensary system for adult use, merging it with the medical program was suboptimal, and continued access to a wide range of medical products may be at risk."
(Cover Image Courtesy of Hunter Business Law)