Though marijuana is as accessible as it’s ever been, thanks in part to large-scale political pushes and legalization efforts, huge swaths of the country still can’t get their hands on it. And that’s a monstrous issue, particularly for those who need medical marijuana or its derivatives to live productive, healthy lives. In some states, you can simply walk into a store front, make a purchase, and be on your way. In others, you’ll be literally locked in a cage for possessing cannabis in any form.
It’s a troubling and confounding slate of differing state laws – and federal side-stepping – that have led us to this point. And in terms of accessing medical marijuana specifically, the health and happiness of millions are put in jeopardy because of legislation (or a lack thereof).
But states are starting to figure it out, and even compete against each other when it comes to cannabis. The economic benefits are clear, and we’re learning more about the public health impacts every month. States are starting to figure it out, but we still have a long way to go, as a nation. That’s why Americans For Safe Access, a medical marijuana advocate group, has been releasing its annual State of the States Report – to give an overview of which states are best making cannabis available to their respective residents.
“Almost two decades since the first laws were passed, more than 275 million Americans now live in states with medical cannabis laws — about 85% of [the] U.S. population,” Steph Sherer, the executive director for Americans For Safe Access writes. “Generally speaking, the legal landscape for medical cannabis patients continues to improve. More states are adopting at least some level of legal protections; there have been tremendous advancements in product safety regulations; and state program administrators have demonstrated a commitment to making their medical cannabis programs work best for their state.”
The report gives each state a letter grade – A through F, like you would receive in school – which signifies how available medical marijuana is to residents. There were a ton of factors taken into account, so it’s best to read through the report yourself, but five general categories generated a state’s particular grade: patient rights and protections, access, ease of navigation, functionality, and consumer safety.
Though many states were hit with an F, no state received more than a B+. Here are the 10 top-graded states, in alphabetical order.
California, despite not having full-legalization in place, was one of the states that scored the highest with a B+. The state scored fairly high in all categories, but was hit hard in “product safety.” Overall, out of 500 possible grading points, Americans For Safe Access gave California 439 – or 88%, and good enough for a B+. We’ll have to see if November brings full legalization, however, which could change things.
Colorado is one of the few states that have fully legalized marijuana for adult consumption, and already had a rather prosperous medical system in place. That infrastructure gave Colorado a B grade from ASA, scoring a total of 421 out of 500 possible points, for 84%. Colorado missed points in the patient rights and civil protections category, but had strong showings in the others.
Hawaii tied Colorado at 84%, good enough for a B grade from ASA. Hawaii is yet another state that is popping up on lists of “next to legalize,” but the tropical paradise has had a strong medical system for some time. Hawaii’s only shortfall in the grading was in product safety, which would probably improve dramatically under full legalization.
In a surprise showing, Illinois tied California for tops in the country with a B+ grade. Out of 500 possible points, Illinois secured 438, or 88%. The only real beef ASA graders took with Illinois’ medical system was in access to medicine, in which it scored 68 out of 100.
Out east, Maryland made its way on to the list with a B grade, scoring an 84%, or 419 out of 500. Maryland scored a full 100% in terms of product safety, but only 63% in patient rights, and 65% in functionality. Maryland has a solid system, but there is definitely room for improvement.
Massachusetts is gearing up for a legalization push this November, but it already has a fairly high-functioning medical system for its residents. Massachusetts secured a B grade for itself, with an 85% total. The state’s lowest grades came in the patient rights and civil protections category, in which it received 65 out of 100 points.
It’s not just giant dams and casinos out in Nevada – there’s also a well-run medical marijuana system. In fact, Nevada tied for the highest grade – a B+ – with an 87%, or 436 points out of 500. Nevada had all-around high scores in the sub-categories, with only patient rights and protections blemishing its report card with 68 out of 100 points.
8. New Mexico
New Mexico also tied for the highest grade in the country with a B+ from ASA, scoring 442 points out of 500 for 88%. Again, patient rights and protections were somewhat worrisome to the graders, and functionality was of minor concern.
The dream of the 90s is alive in Portland – and legal weed (medical and recreational) is easily available as well. Oregon received a B grade from ASA, for 426 out of 500 points, and an overall 85%. Oregon’s biggest dings came in patient rights, access to medicine, and product safety.
Finally, Oregon’s northern neighbor Washington (another fully legal state) received a B grade as well. Washington scored 426 out of 500, good for 85% overall. Washington’s biggest issues? Mostly, functionality, in which it was graded 73 out of 100.
To read the full State of the States Report, head over to Americans For Safe Access.