Press Release: State of the States’ Medical Cannabis Programs State of the States’ Medical Cannabis Programs

February 28, 2018 | David Mangone


WASHINGTON, DC — February 28, 2018  Today the medical cannabis advocacy organization, Americans for Safe Access, released its annual report entitled “Medical Marijuana Access in the United States: A Patient-Focused Analysis of the Patchwork of State Laws.” The report examines the status of states that have passed medical marijuana laws and grades them on a 500 point scale. Forty-six states and three territories have some form of medical cannabis program, meaning approximately 95% of the American population lives in a state with some form of medical cannabis law.

This ASA report is an important management tool for those of us who are serious about improving medical cannabis programs. "With the ongoing opioid crisis we must look for solutions that can help reduce the number of preventable deaths. Research has shown that medical cannabis can play a significant role in mitigating the opioid epidemic. Americans for Safe Access' model legislation and regulations take the guesswork out of drafting laws that help patients, including those with chronic pain,” said Pennsylvania State Senator Mike Folmer. “Being able to compare my state's progress with the grades of other state is incredibly helpful in creating a roadmap for improvement."

The report reviews existing laws and regulations, and laws passed in between January 1, 2017 and December 31, 2017, giving states letter grades from “A” to “F”.  This year’s report, unlike previous versions, urges states to improve their programs to use medical cannabis as a tool to fight the opioid crisis.

The categories states are graded on include:

  1. Patient Rights and Civil Protection
  2. Access to Medicine
  3. Ease of Navigation
  4. Functionality
  5. Consumer Safety and Provider Requirements

“We want lawmakers to use this report to see that there are gaps in their medical cannabis programs. Even programs that have been around for decades like California still have room for improvement,“ said Steph Sherer, Executive Director for Americans for Safe Access.Research has shown us that there can be as much as a 40% decrease in opioid overdose deaths in states with medical cannabis dispensaries. States with effective medical cannabis programs can save lives, and this report lays out the steps to increase program effectiveness.”

No state received an “A” grade in 2017, but many states saw improvements in their grading from previous years.  Seven states (CA, HI, IL, MI, NV ,OH , OR) received a “B+” for their medical cannabis programs, a 133% increase from the 2016 year.  Sixteen states received an ”F”. All states that received a failing grade limit their medical cannabis program to cannabidiol, an extract of the marijuana plant.

The goal for this report is to provide states with recommendations that can benefit medical cannabis programs and in turn, better provide for patients. The report also provides ways for states to compare themselves to other state programs and look for ways to improve their medical cannabis laws and regulations, particularly in light of the ongoing opioid crisis. To help achieve this goal, Americans for Safe Access is sending this report to elected officials and regulators in every state.

This report has been published annually beginning in 2014 by Americans for Safe Access. The only states that did not receive a score were Idaho,  Nebraska, Kansas,  and South Dakota. Americans for Safe Access has members in all fifty states, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the District of Columbia. The full 2018 report is available here.

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