What Are State Medical Marijuana Laws?

Way back in 1996, California became the first state to allow the use of marijuana for medical reasons. As of November 4th, 2020, there are now 36 states and 4 territories in the United States that do allow marijuana use for medical reasons. There are also now 15 of those 36 states and 3 territories that have approved marijuana for recreational use. What does this all mean?

In states that have approved medical marijuana laws, this generally means that:

  • Protection from any criminal penalties for the use of marijuana for medical reasons.
  • Access to marijuana by home cultivation, dispensaries, or some other system that may be implemented.
  • It allows a variety of strains or products including those with more than “low THC”.
  • It also allows either smoking or vaporization of some kind of marijuana products, plant material, or extract.
  • Is not a limited trial program except for Nebraska and South Dakota. These two states have limited trial programs that are not open to the public.

What Are State Medical Marijuana Laws?

Which States Allow Medical Marijuana?

States with medical marijuana laws have a patient registry that may protect the possession of marijuana up to a certain amount to prevent these marijuana-related arrests. Those that grow or dispense medical marijuana, in these approved states, are often called “caregivers”, and they are usually limited to a certain number of plants or products per patient.

Laws do vary for each state that has approved marijuana for medical use. Also, federal law is different and makes no exceptions from the current drug prohibition policy. The current list of states that have approved marijuana for medical use are as follows:

  • Alaska (Also has approved recreational use)
  • Arizona (Also has approved recreational use)
  • Arkansas
  • California (Also has approved recreational use)
  • Colorado (Also has approved recreational use)
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • District of Columbia (Also has approved recreational use)
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois (Also has approved recreational use)
  • Louisiana
  • Maine (Also has approved recreational use)
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts (Also has approved recreational use)
  • Michigan (Also has approved recreational use)
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana (Also has approved recreational use)
  • Nevada (Also has approved recreational use)
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey (Also has approved recreational use)
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon (Also has approved recreational use)
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Dakota (Also has approved recreational use)
  • Utah
  • Vermont (Also has approved recreational use)
  • Washington (Also has approved recreational use)
  • West Virginia
  • Columbia
  • Guam (Also has approved recreational use)
  • Puerto Rico
  • S. Virgin Islands (Also has approved recreational use)

Marijuana for medical use, specifically THC, has been proven to be beneficial for pain relief, nausea and vomiting, and appetite stimulation. It has also been found to be effective in relieving some of the symptoms of cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, and HIV/AIDS. Marijuana also has some psychological benefits such as reducing anxiety, depression, and helping with insomnia. However, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse:

The potential medicinal properties of marijuana and its components have been the subject of research and heated debate for decades. THC itself has proven medical benefits in particular formulations. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved THC-based medications, dronabinol (Marinol®) and nabilone (Cesamet®), prescribed in pill form for the treatment of nausea in patients undergoing cancer chemotherapy and to stimulate appetite in patients with wasting syndrome due to AIDS. Also, several other marijuana-based medications have been approved or are undergoing clinical trials. Nabiximols (Sativex®), a mouth spray that is currently available in the United Kingdom, Canada, and several European countries for treating the spasticity and neuropathic pain that may accompany multiple sclerosis, combines THC with another chemical found in marijuana called cannabidiol (CBD). ( NIH)

As stated above, there is a lot of debate on the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, in particular the delivery or route of administration. THC is very beneficial, but if the marijuana is smoked, that could lead to other issues due to other harmful substances that may be added.

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