These States Have the Worst Medical Marijuana Policy in America

While America is still a long way from legalizing (or even decriminalizing) marijuana, many states are ahead of the curve. People suffering from cancer, Alzheimer’s, and other conditions can get already access medical cannabis to treat symptoms and lead a better life.

Meanwhile, you’ll find recreational pot use legal in Nevada, Colorado, and California, among other places. However, lawmakers in several U.S. states have not been open-minded about marijuana in the slightest.

Americans for Safe Access, a nonprofit that advocates for medical cannabis patients, assigned a score to every state to reflect how things stand for Americans in 2018. Here are the 15 states with the worst medical marijuana policy.

15. Virginia

Sandbridge Beach in Virginia Beach,

Virginia is one of the worst states for medical marijuana access. | Sherry Smith/Getty Images

  • Grade: F
  • Despite minor improvements, Virginia remains among the worst.

Outgoing Governor Terry McCauliffe and new Gov. Ralph Northam both signed laws improving Virginia’s medical marijuana policy since 2017. Unfortunately, many patients still cannot access oils at state facilities.

That makes people with qualifying conditions have to travel out of state to obtain the medication. Hence the failing grade (F) Virginia got for 2018.

Next: Go ahead and mess with Texas’s medical cannabis laws. They’re terrible.

14. Texas

Houston, Texas, USA

Advocates say that Texas needs to improve patient protections. | Sean Pavone/iStock/Getty Images

  • Grade: F
  • Cultivation has begun in Texas, but access remains difficult for patients.

Even though access should improve somewhat with state facilities now cultivating plants, Texas still scores low in so many categories it landed an “F” for 2018. Patient protections, the number of qualifying conditions, and overall access rate poorly here.

In order to improve, Americans for Safe Access recommended Texas beef up civil protections for patients. Meanwhile, confusion over how doctors can administer the drug also needs fixing.

Next: Georgia’s distribution system is nonexistent.

13. Georgia

Riverwalk in Augusta Georgia

Georgia has expaned its list of qualifying conditions, but barriers remain. | SeanPavonePhoto/iStock/Getty Images

  • Grade: F
  • Even with more qualifying conditions, Georgians have trouble accessing medical cannabis.

Reviewing policy changes from 2017, Americans for Safe Access applauded Georgia expanding its list of qualifying conditions. (The state is now one of very few listing autism as such a condition.)

However, residents have no way to access the medication since Georgia lacks a distribution system. Since officials recognize the importance of medical cannabis but force patients to find it on their own, Georgia got itself an “F” grade.

Next: In a state rife with opioid deaths, Kentucky isn’t turning to a safer drug for pain management.

12. Kentucky

Louisville, KY

Could better marijuana policy help Kentucky curb opioid overdoses? | toddtaulman/iStock/Getty Images

  • Grade: F
  • With such a high rate of opioid overdoses, Kentucky urgently needs better cannabis policy.

Marijuana has proven effective treating PTSD and otherwise managing chronic pain. In fact, in states where medical cannabis is legal, opioid overdoses have been lower.

Down in Kentucky, where opioid use amounts to an epidemic, state laws allow very few people to use cannabis for managing pain and other symptoms. The high number of lung cancer patients in the state could also benefit from marijuana in liquid form.

Next: It’s almost impossible to access medical marijuana in Mississippi.

11. Mississippi 


Severe epilepsy is the only way to access medical marijuana in Mississippi. | Sean Pavone/iStock/Getty Images

  • Grade: F
  • Only someone with a debilitating epileptic condition can receive treatment in Mississippi.

To qualify to use a cannabinoid (CBD) oil in Mississippi, patients have to prove a severe epileptic condition. Otherwise, there is no way to access medical marijuana in the state.

That alone would earn Mississippi an “F,” but the state also lacks any consumer protections and standards for the little cannabis it dispenses.

Next: You can smoke to your heart’s content in North Carolina — as long as it’s tobacco.

10. North Carolina

Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

North Carolina earned an “F” for its medical marijuana policy. | Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

  • Grade: F
  • There’s little worth celebrating in North Carolina’s cannabis policy.

In North Carolina, only epilepsy patients have a shot at treatment with CBD oil — and only if they have tried at least three other treatment options. Clearly, this state’s marijuana policy needs a complete overhaul.

If there were a grade lower than “F,” North Carolina might have gotten it for policy as of 2018. Out of 100, the state scored a 30.

Next: The other Carolina is even worse.

9. South Carolina

charleston south carolina

North Carolina’s southern neighbor has an even stricter medical marijuana policy.| Digidreamgrafix/iStock/Getty Images

  • Grade: F
  • Imagine North Carolina policy, but with more restrictions.

Hopes are high for new medical marijuana policy in South Carolina in 2018. However, going by the state’s current record, it clearly deserves the “F” it got.

Weak patient protections and near-zero access got it that grade. Meanwhile, hardly any conditions qualify for medical marijuana treatment.

Next: In a state that jails anyone caught with marijuana, medical programs are just as antiquated.

8. Oklahoma

Oklahoma city

Oklahoma could be on the verge of major medical marijuana policy change. | Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

  • Grade: F
  • A June 2018 referendum could shake up this state’s terrible marijuana policy.

At a glance, Oklahoma’s medical cannabis policy is only slightly better than the criminal policy which lands anyone caught with the smallest amount in jail. Few conditions qualify, access is limited, and patient protections are poor.

However, voters have a chance to weigh in on the issue on June 26 2018. During that primary day, a referendum will ask whether access should be expanded — all the way to allowing some Oklahoma residents to grow marijuana plants.

Next: Everything about Alabama medical cannabis law is bad.

7. Alabama

Montgomery, Alabama

Alabama’s medical marijuana policy is stuck in the dark ages. | SeanPavonePhoto/iStock/Getty Images

  • Grade: F
  • There’s nothing going for Alabama as far as marijuana is concerned.

For starters, almost no one qualifies for treatment with medical cannabis in Alabama. But it actually gets worse.

Since some sick children need a “prescription” to access the drug, Alabama doctors cannot get them the treatment they need. Therefore, parents who obtain the drug on their own would not be protected by law.

Next: This state has more opioid overdoses than traffic deaths.

6. Missouri

The Indian Scout is known as a Kansas City landmark

There’s a movement afoot to change Missouri’s cannabis policy. | tomofbluesprings/iStock/Getty Images

  • Grade: F
  • May 2018 momentum could improve Missouri’s terrible cannabis policy.

At the start of May 2018, Missouri’s House passed a bill legalizing medical marijuana. Among the conditions it would cover, terminal illnesses and cancer were on the list.

However, there is still a long way to go, especially with Missouri’s governor up to his neck in scandals. As it stood at the start of the year, state policy could hardly be worse.

Next: If Utah’s governor gets his way, the state’s awful medical marijuana policy will continue.

5. Utah

St. George, Utah

Utah residents want to change the state’s marijuana policy, but the governor doesn’t. | George Frey/Getty Images

  • Grade: F
  • Despite broad public support, most medical cannabis efforts in Utah have failed.

Count Utah among the many states considering new marijuana laws in 2018. However, Governor Gary Herbert already went on record saying he opposes legalization.

Currently, very few patients in the state qualify for medical cannabis treatment. Access and legal protections are virtually nonexistent.

Next: In Wyoming, the few who qualify cannot access medical cannabis.

4. Wyoming 

The sun hits the tips of the Grand Tetons October 5, 2012 in the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming

Wyoming gets an “F” for marijuana policy. | Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

  • Grade: F
  • Here’s another state that leaves patients on their own.

Only people suffering from intractable epilepsy qualify for Wyoming’s cannabis program. Unfortunately, the state has no distribution system, so patients have to find it elsewhere.

This type of policy does next to nothing for people suffering from such conditions.

Next: If you thought a bill in Tennessee might change things, think again.

3. Tennessee

Nashville, Tennessee

Tennessee is one of the worst states for medical marijuana policy. | SeanPavonePhoto/iStock/Getty Images

  • Grade: F
  • After introducing a medical marijuana bill in Tennessee’s legislature, the sponsor killed it.

Progress doesn’t come naturally in Tennessee, and it looks like any advances in marijuana policy will have to wait until 2019. In April 2018, a medical cannabis bill died at the hands of its own sponsor (Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville).

That leaves one of the worst states in the union for marijuana policy right where it started.

Next: Some Wisconsin cities are getting right what the state government gets dead-wrong.

2. Wisconsin 

Green Bay, Wisconsin

Scott Walker is standing in the way of loosening medical marijuana laws in Wisconsin. | ImagesbyK/iStock/Getty Images

  • Grade: F
  • With Scott Walker in the governor’s mansion, Wisconsin has little hope for better medical cannabis laws. 

As Wisconsin cities move to legalize marijuana, state policy remains among the worst in America. Almost no one qualifies for treatment under current laws.

Meanwhile, Governor Scott Walker said in 2017 he’s “not interested in opening the door towards legalizing marijuana,” medical or otherwise. Likewise, Wisconsin voters can decide whether they are interested in Walker sticking around in the November 2018 election.

Next: With so many bad states, here’s why Indiana is the worst.

1. Indiana

Downtown Indianapolis skyline at twilight

Mike Pence’s home state is the worst for medical marijuana in the U.S.| iStock/Getty Images

  • Grade: F
  • The lowest score of any state — 21 out of 100 — belongs to Indiana.

While neighboring states have sound medical cannabis policy and popular opinion supporting it, Indiana nonetheless is the worst for marijuana policy in America. For starters, it took until 2017 to clear the way even for intractable epilepsy patients to access CBD oil treatment.

Even within that narrow prism, state laws make access close to impossible. Meanwhile, civil protections and consumer safety guidelines barely exist. Without question, Indiana is the most backward state when it comes to medical marijuana.

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