How well does your state serve medical cannabis patients?

Emily Gray Brosious

April 4, 2017: 5:01 PM CT

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Forty-four states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam have passed medical cannabis laws since 1996, and 28 of those states, plus D.C., have enacted comprehensive medical cannabis programs. Today, more than 300 million Americans live in states or territories with some form of medical cannabis law on the book, according to the patient-advocacy group Americans for Safe Access (ASA), which recently released its annual report assessing the quality and performance of each state’s medical cannabis program.

ASA’s report, “A Patient-Focused Analysis of the Patchwork of State Laws,” grades each state’s medical cannabis program in five categories. The first category, patient rights and civil protection from discrimination, considers how well a state’s medical marijuana program protects patients from arrest and discrimination, in addition to protecting patients from employment, housing or child custody loss due to their status as a medical cannabis patient, as well as other legal protections.

The second category, access to medicine, assesses a number of factors that affect patients’ ability to access medical cannabis. These include which forms of medical cannabis are made available to patients, whether or not delivery services are permitted, how medical cannabis is taxed, how many dispensaries are permitted across the state, and whether or not patients can and grow their own marijuana at home.

The third category rates how easily patients can navigate their state’s medical cannabis program. It considers whether or not states’ qualifying condition lists are comprehensive, the process for adding new conditions to the list that qualify for medical cannabis, how many patient caregivers are permitted to handle cannabis, how reasonable registration fees are, how reasonable physicians’ requirements are, and other factors that impact use of the medical cannabis system.

The fourth area of critique by the ASA considers how well state medical cannabis programs function, including factors like dispensary supplies, patient possession and purchase limits, limits on where patients can medicate and how expensive medical cannabis programs are for patients.

The final category, consumer safety and provider requirements, looks at factors like dispensary staff training, standard operating procedures and protocols, storage and sanitary conditions, security protocols, and required product testing and labeling.

Grades for states with new medical cannabis programs did not factor in the fifth category, product safety, so as to “not penalize these states as they are in the implementation phase,” according to ASA’s report. Bonus points were given to states with new laws (+25 points), new comprehensive regulation (+15), and laws that improved state programs (+15) and improved regulations (+10). Points were subtracted for states that passed laws restricting their medical cannabis programs (-15) and states with delays or restrictions (-10).

Check out the following gallery to see where your state’s medical cannabis program ranks.

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