Americans for Safe Access (ASA), a medical patient advocacy group, has an annual report on the proficiency of states’ medical cannabis programs, assigning each a letter grade.
Criteria includes patient rights and civil protection from discrimination (including protection against arrest and driving under the influence), ease of access, reasonable fees and qualifying conditions, fair purchase and possession limits, and consumer safety and provider requirements.
States, where medicinal cannabis is legal, are awarded points on a scale of 1 to 100 and receive bonus points for improvements from the prior year.
- Illinois. The state’s new top spot is largely thanks to Bob Morgan, the former coordinator for Illinois’ medicinal cannabis program. Morgan looked at former state meeting minutes; more than 10,000 public comments; and other states’ best practices to reshape Illinois’ program.
Morgan developed “comprehensive civil protections for cannabis users and rigorous standards for product testing, which means patients aren’t ingesting contaminated cannabis.
The state’s regulatory agency also has a sophisticated communications platform to provide Illinois medical marijuana patients with...how-to guides for patient applications and clearly marked locations of nearby dispensaries,” said the former state coordinator to Leafly.
However, the cost of medical cannabis remains high, and a limited number of dispensaries causes hurdles. The state doesn’t allow delivery, cultivation, or collective gardening, which severely affects ease of access.
Illinois is also the only state to require fingerprint identification and a criminal background check before receiving a state-accepted medical marijuana card.
- Michigan. The state scores nearly perfect in ease of navigation, which means physicians can easily classify qualifying conditions, find caregivers, and charge reasonable fees. It also boasts great patient rights and civil protection and ease of access.
However, the state receives nearly no points for consumer safety and requirements -- an area that Maryland scores perfectly in.
- California. As a pioneering leader of the medical marijuana industry, the Golden State cracks the top ten due to its centrally regulated dispensary system. Requirement differences per county don’t exist, making it “the best place in the country for patients to receive legal protections and gain the most timely access,” according to the ASA as reported by MMJRecs.
- Oregon. Rising up a few spots from last year’s report, Oregon fully legalizes medical cannabis with the least expensive prices in the United States, according to MMJ Recs. With widespread cannabis access and robust civil rights protections are robust, residents’ only worry is merging medical and recreational programs.
- Maine. “An early adopter of product safety guidelines”, according to the ASA report, Maine scores nearly perfect in patient rights and civil protection and functionality. However, the state’s consumer safety requirements drop, and it doesn’t offer enough diversity in dispensaries.
- New Mexico. New Mexico doubles its dispensary count, offers widespread medical marijuana cards, and continues to sell at low prices. However, the state isn’t strong when it comes to civil rights and protections in areas like parental rights, employment, and housing.
- Nevada. Nevada also cracks the top ten last year due to its ease of access and high quality. However, the state’s low possession limits heed qualifying patients’ progress by interrupting the supply of this alternative treatment.
- Montana. According to the ASA report, “If Montana can move through the implementation of its new state-regulated dispensary system effectively and adopt strong product safety protocols, it could be one of the strongest programs” in the United States. Montana also needs to develop better civil protections in areas like parental rights, employment, housing, and organ transplants.
- Ohio. According to the report, if the state “can move through the implementation in a timely manner and adopt strong product safety protocols, it could be one of the stronger programs in the country.
However, the medical cannabis law includes the worst employment language in the country for patients,” which lawfully allows employment discrimination and denies qualifying patients a cause of action in court to challenge such cases.
- New Hampshire. For developing a fully functional program in the last year, New Hampshire rounds out the top ten list and excels in patient rights and civil protection, consumer safety and provider requirements, functionality, and ease of navigation.
Maryland drops from No. 5 to the top 25 due to the current restriction on access to medicine, little to no patient rights, and denial of home cultivation. However, the state scores perfectly on product safety guidelines, including growth of cannabis, dispensing, manufacturing, and laboratory operations.
With more than 15 dispensaries open in Maryland, including Peninsula Alternative Health in Salisbury, the state hopes to make a grander leap up the list in 2018. For more information on the status of medical cannabis in Maryland, contact us.