State’s Medical Marijuana Program Grades – ASA Report
For the 2nd year in a row, Americans for Safe Access has released a comprehensive state report card evaluating each state’s medical cannabis program. The states were evaluated in 5 areas: Patient Rights, Access to Medication, Ease of Program Navigation, Functionality, and Consumer Safety Requirements. The goal of the report is to grade each state on how their medical cannabis program is structured and whether or not medical cannabis is easily accessible to the patients. Each category carries a maximum of 100 points and bonus points are awarded to states that made regulatory improvements or moved to protect patient’s rights by blocking harmful changes. Inversely, states that experienced program delays or cut backs also had points deducted from their final score.
Patient Rights and Civil Protection from Discrimination- Category 1 evaluates the protections offered to medical cannabis patients as it relates to their rights. Does the state protect medical patients from arrest so long as they are acting in accordance with regulations? Are patients protected against employment and housing discrimination?
Access to Medicine– The 2nd category grades the ability of patients to access medical cannabis within their state. Are there adequate licenses available to meet demand? Are distribution centers, also known as dispensaries, within a reasonable distance to where patients are located? Category 2 also considers what types of cannabis and derivatives are available while also heavily favoring states that allow access to whole plant medicine.
Ease of Program Navigation- Category 3 measures if the program is easy for Patients and Physicians to understand and participate in. How many qualifying conditions are there and what’s the process for additions? Are the fees for patients and/or caregivers reasonable?
Functionality– The 4th category examines how functional the program is from a patient’s perspective. Do patients have access to quality medicine with reasonable purchase and possession limits? How easy is it for patients to access a dispensary or cultivate their own plants at home?
Consumer Safety Requirements– The final criterion is based on Consumer Safety and Provider Requirements. How are plants, samples, or products tracked and reported in the event of a recall? Is there mandatory training for staff member? What are the inventory control standards and how do they ensure product and patient safety?
Compared to last year’s report, scores improved in 19 states, and 22 states unfortunately saw their grades reduced. This comes as no surprise as the more conservative Southern and Eastern states, who are still in the early stages of their medical cannabis program, received poor grades as a result of their highly restrictive programs. Some of these developing programs make it extremely difficult for businesses to receive operating licenses and for patients to receive medical cannabis unless they are severely ill.
- 17 states received a grade of F, the same as last year
- 19 states received a grade of A, up from only 12 last year, indicating overall forward progress towards an effective and accessible medical cannabis program throughout the US.
Predictably, established medical cannabis markets like Illinois, California, New Mexico, and Oregon scored well, while other states like Arizona, Arkansas, and Maine scored high in patient rights but were penalized for not having regulations and processes regarding product safety in place; product safety is a top priority for patients. These deductions were a result of there being no standardized method for tracking, testing, or labeling cannabis and cannabis related products in their states, which puts patients at risk of ingesting things like pesticides and other unnatural contaminants. Some of the top scoring states in the report have already implemented state seed-to-sale traceability systems; however some of the highest scoring states, including California and Michigan, are on track to implement a seed-to-sale traceability system in order to increase transparency and accountability to the whole market.
According to the ASA, the states showing the most improvement were Florida, Montana, and Michigan, all of which are in the process of launching medical cannabis programs. The U.S. continues to make forward progress towards a safe and accessible medical cannabis program, but there’s still much work to be done. To review the full report, click here.
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