Cannabis legalization has been a significant step over the past few years in the United States, but most in the marijuana community know that legalizing the plant is only part of the problem. Access to safe, high-quality product remains an issue for so many people across the country.
As per a statement released by Americans for Safe Access, the organization announced the release of a report titled “2020 State of the States Report: An Analysis of Medical Cannabis Access in the United States.” The report was released during the National Cannabis Policy Summit online event, which occurred recently.
According to the ASA, the group spends months “comparing every medical cannabis program in the United States with the purpose of analyzing which programs are doing well, where they are failing, and how the state programs can be improved to best serve the needs of patients.”
The report itself looks at medical cannabis programs across the United States in several different categories, grading them on a scale of A to F. Those categories include Patient rights and civil protections; Access to medicine; Ease of navigation; Functionality; and Consumer safety and provider requirements.
As per the statement released, the coronavirus pandemic continues to have a massive impact on state-level medical cannabis programs. However, there is some good news also. Efforts by the ASA, as well as others, have helped to ensure that access to medical cannabis during the pandemic remains open, giving those that rely on it as medicine the opportunity to continue treatment unimpeded.
“Access to medical cannabis has come a long way since California passed Proposition 215 in 1996. However, this report shows us that while medical cannabis programs grow throughout the country, states are still failing to provide programs that fulfill the needs of all patients,” said Debbie Churgai, executive director of Americans for Safe Access in a statement. “That is why as part of this report, we do not just analyze the programs, but also provide state legislatures across the country distinct methods to improve their medical cannabis programs.”
Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, and Rhode Island all received the highest marks from the report for their response to the COVID-19 situation. Each of these states instituted regulations to keep medical cannabis accessible to patients. Moreover, many states instituted curbside pickup, delivery, and telehealth to help patients maintain access to the plant.
Oregon and Oklahoma both received passing grades for their medical cannabis programs. However, many states that only allow for access to CBD oil or low-THC oil exclusively all received F’s. “While this is certainly preferable to no recognition or protection for cannabis use at all,” noted the statement, “these systems are failing to meet the needs of medical cannabis patients. Other report findings also show that there are many state programs that are failing patients, including some states which have legalized cannabis for adult use.”
According to the report, affordability remains the number one concern for medical cannabis patients. The report notes that many states have attempted to clarify the role of insurance in their medical cannabis infrastructure, but, as of the current date, no state has allowed for insurance to cover medical cannabis.
“We will continue to work to improve state medical cannabis programs using tools like this report, but passing comprehensive federal cannabis legislation is the only way to truly meet the needs of all patients in the US,” said Steph Sherer, president of Americans for Safe Access in a statement. For a look at our recommendations on how to end the federal conflict, through an Office of Medical Cannabis federal oversight, read our Model Federal Legislation report.