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The Difficult History of Legalization

While the distribution of marijuana for medical purposes has been legalized in New York, there are still huge amounts of regulatory hurdles for providers to jump In order to efficiently care for their patients. Unfortunately these concerns have begun to pop up in other states that are attempting to move their legalization from paper to process.

In Massachusetts medical marijuana was legalized as early as 2012, but the regulations were plagued with extremely complicated licensing procedures that stopped dispensaries from opening at all. This May, Gov. Charlie Baker refined the overcomplicated process, allowing dispensaries to open for business only to be stopped by ridiculous requirements on marijuana’s lead levels that even grocery store vegetables were unable to meet. The disarray stemming from these events has resulted in arrest of several doctor-certified patients despite them being in full compliance with state law.

Minnesota patients will be allowed to purchase marijuana on July 1, but are still facing difficulty with the state only approving nine conditions for patients to qualify and only eight dispensaries in the entire state. Minnesota does not allow home growing or smoking, having only legalized extracts and pills derived from the plant, which along with stiff physician regulations may make it even more difficult for patients to find care.

A four-year pilot program for medical marijuana in Illinois initiated in 2013, and with dispensaries not being issued licenses until January of this year and not expecting to open until this fall, it has been slow going. Coupled with Illinois’ strict prohibition on home growing, barely 2,500 patients have applied for the state-mandated medical marijuana program.

While medical marijuana was legal in Delaware in 2011, the proposed plan was suspended for fear of federal intervention. The Delaware law requires at least one dispensary per county, but they have been slow to open, with the first scheduled to open with only 150 marijuana plants.

New Hampshire passed a law in 2013 for medical marijuana, but the regulations were extremely strict. Allowing only four state-licensed dispensaries and approving just five medical condition for qualifications, most patients are unable to even apply for a medical marijuana card. With home grows illegal and more dispensaries not expected to open until January of 2016, patients are still left out in the cold until further revision.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill into effect just two weeks ago allowing treatment of severe forms of epilepsy using high-CBD, low-THC cannabis oil. For patients to qualify for the medication, they must have already tried at least two traditional forms of epilepsy medication and been unsuccessful with each, along with securing approval from two separate doctors. This bill will join Texas with more than twelve other states that have legalized high-CBD forms of marijuana with little to no THC for medication of seizures. Unfortunately these styles of legalization are commonly dysfunctional due to a state failure to create proper regulations to provide medicine or relying on federal permission that will never appear due to marijuana’s status as a Schedule I controlled substance.

Unfortunately these states show that even though momentum continue to build for policy reform for medical marijuana, reality is several steps behind the law.