These Are the Best—and the Worst—States for Medical Marijuana

Photo by Justin Cannabis

On paper, medical marijuana is more common in America than firearms.

Forty-four states have medical cannabis laws on the books—which means that more than 300 million Americans can access legal marijuana in some form if they or a family member is sick. That’s 85 percent of the country.

Compare that to the owners of the country’s 300 million guns—which are stashed in only one-third of households—and it seems the U.S. should be in the running for mellowest place on earth, rather than the best-armed and most-incarcerated.

And since deaths related to opiate abuse are reduced by as much as 25 percent where medical-marijuana is available, America should also expect the heroin epidemic to be ending any day now.

Sounds great! But for now, this is all abstract theory.

In practice, most medical-marijuana laws are crap and don’t really provide any marijuana at all—to sick people or anyone else, according to Americans for Safe Access, a national medical-cannabis advocacy group. So those 128,000 annual deaths due to prescription medication abuse won’t be ending anytime soon.

Americans for Safe Access (ASA) recently weighed all 44 medical-marijuana laws, and found nearly all of them wanting. Sixteen states—all of which allow non-psychoactive CBD-rich, low-THC oil only, and, in places, including Texas, which have yet to start delivering even this to patients—received a grade of F-minus from ASA for their bang-up jobs providing plant material to sick people, meaning they may as well have not even bothered.

More than 90 percent of Americans tell pollsters they support medical marijuana. Even Donald Trump has nothing bad to say about giving cannabis to people with AIDS or cancer. During Barack Obama’s time in the White House, the number of states that allow full-THC cannabis more than doubled from 13 states to 29. Fueled by dramatic anecdotes about CBD’s power to solve epileptic seizures and other serious intractable diseases, another 15 states have CBD-only laws.

ASA estimates there are two million medical marijuana patients nationwide. That number sounds awfully small—and many more Americans would probably be patients, if they could qualify. Five percent of Californians used medical marijuana in the last year, according to a survey, yet that number dips to well below one percent nationally.

One reason why is the near-impossible hoops most states force medical marijuana patients to jump though.

According to ASA:

“[M]any programs like Massachusetts and Maryland are experiencing long delays in licensing medical cannabis businesses to serve patients. A significant portion of these programs are not meeting the needs of their medical cannabis patients. In fact, when ASA surveyed patients, we found that less than a third of patients were satisfied with their program, less than 12% of patients considered their medicine to be affordable in states where there are dispensaries, and fewer than 20% of patients thought there was a sufficient number to serve them, with half reporting that they had to drive more than 20 miles to gain access.”

Imagine if half the country was a half-hour drive away from the nearest pharmacy. They might almost be ready for health-care reform.

California was deemed the best state in the country for medical-marijuana access, mostly for ease of access, but did not escape criticism. California’s cannabis supply was docked for having a low bar for product safety, an issue highlighted by recent reports of patients sickened and, in one case, dead thanks to contaminated cannabis.

Other states with workable medical marijuana programs include states with commercial dispensaries like Arizona, Colorado, Oregon and Washington.

Take a look at the report yourself, and ask yourself: Is it easier for you to buy a gun than it is to buy some legal weed? If it is, call your local lawmakers and start to complain. Justifiably. 

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