According to American for Safe Access, 2021 was not a great year for medical marijuana. The organization's 2021 State of the States Report analyzes medical-cannabis access in the U.S. No state scores an "A" and only two states (Maine and Illinois) receive "B" marks. From 2020 to 2021, just four states (Connecticut, Delaware, Louisana and Missouri) had improved grades. Every other state's grade declined.
In the introduction, ASA explains:
"While we can acknowledge that we have come a long way since the first medical cannabis law passed in 1996, we must also recognize that none of the state laws adopted thus far can be considered ideal from a patient’s standpoint. As of publication, there are no states that include the entire range of protections and rights that should be afforded to patients under the law, with some lagging far behind others. Because of the differences and deficiencies in legislation and regulations in the states, patients argue that the laws do not function equitably and are often poorly designed, poorly implemented or both. Even well-organized programs can fail to deliver safe or legal access in states with laws that allow local governments to ban medical cannabis businesses from operating, leaving thousands of patients without the access state laws were intended to create... ASA strongly believes that state and federal laws must be changed to expand medical-cannabis access to the greatest extent possible and ensure that patients are prioritized in terms of medical-product access, quality, safety and affordability."
"There are no states that include the entire range of protections and rights that should be afforded to patients under the law."
About adult-use laws impacting medical access, the report notes:
"The recreational adult-use laws are intended for a separate population, and should remain separate from medical cannabis laws. Both systems can co-exist in a state, but medical cannabis laws should be specifically designed with patient needs and protections in mind. However, recreational adult-use laws are only considered in this report as a penalty when a state places priority on the recreational system over the medical cannabis system. This is not designed to punish states that have recreational adult-use laws - and in fact, very few states actually received this penalty - but, it exists to remind legislators and regulators that recreational adult-use laws and medical cannabis laws are not the same, and that medical cannabis laws, regulations and protections should not be abandoned in light of additional recreational use laws."
The Top 12 states on the list have grades of "C+" or better. They are:
Rhode Island: C+
New Jersey: C+
Oregon, the top state in 2020, went from a "B" grade to "C-." Alaska (D+), Arkansas (D+), Florida (D+), Hawaii (D+), Montana (D+), New Hamphirie (D) and North Dakota (D-) registered the biggest declines.
The largest patient totals are in California (1.58 million), Florida (607,132), Oklahoma (385,500), Pennsylvania (384,254) and Michigan (241,216). Washington's patient numbers dropped precipitously from 46,573 to 11,000.
Oklahoma has the most dispensaries with 2,519, followed by California (650), Colorado (466), Oregon (447), Maine (430), Florida (371) and Montana (355). The fewest dispensaries are in West Virginia (2); Missouri, Rhode Island and Utah (3); New Hampshire (4); Verrmont (5); Delaware (6); Washington, DC (7); North Dakota (8); and Louisiana (9).
Maine has the best "Access to Medicine" and "Program Functionality." Illinois is hailed for "Affordibility," Ohio for "Health & Social Equity" and Nevada for "Consumer Protections & Product Safety." Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Minnesota, South Dakota and U.S. Virgin Islands all scored high for "Patients Rights & Consumer Protections."
Additional issues discussed are:
• Growth Among the Patient Population
• Insurance Coverage
• Letting Healthcare Practitioners Decide
• Allowing Cannabis Use by Terminally-Ill Patients at Healthcare Facilities
• Alternative Accessibilty Methods
• Prioritizing Consumer Protections and Product Safety
• Track-and-Trace Safeguards
• Federal Cannabis Laws and the Impact on State Programs
• Functional View of Medical-Cannabis Programs in a Post-Prohibition Environment
• Draft Equity for Mecical Cannabis Patients Resolution
Read the entire report here.