Marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 substance under the Controlled Substances Act at the federal level. Substances in this category are considered to have a high dependency rate with little to no medical benefits, making distribution and consumption of marijuana an offense. In the past, the Justice Department has enforced this policy through paramilitary-style raids, criminal prosecutions, and civil asset forfeiture. The Obama administration sought to change the state law by discouraging the prosecution of people who distribute marijuana for medical purposes in 2009.
The US Department of Justice updated its marijuana enforcement policy in August 2013. It still cited marijuana as an illegal substance and encouraged states like Washington and Colorado to enact strong, state-based enforcement laws to curb its use. The Rohrabacher-Farr amendment was signed into law in December 2014, restricting the Justice Department from funding activities related to interference with the implementation of the medical marijuana laws. Former Attorney General Sessions issued a Marijuana Enforcement Memorandum that allows federal prosecutors to decide how to prioritize enforcement of marijuana laws in January 2018.
The first state to legalize cannabis and cannabinoids drugs was California in 1996 when Proposition 215 was approved by voters. The voters in the District of Columbia and Arizona passed the laws of cannabis for medical use to have them overturned. The Congress in the District of Columbia blocked the voted initiatives from becoming laws but reversed the decision in 2009, legalizing medicinal cannabis use in the state. Arizona warmed up to this idea as early as 1996 where the voters initially passed an initiative supporting the use of cannabinoid drugs, but it never materialized. Later on, they passed Proposition 201 in 2010, which stated that upon prescription from a doctor, the use and consumption of medical cannabis would be legal. The federal law still prohibits prescriptions of marijuana given that it’s still a Schedule 1 substance, making the movement invalid.
Owing to the extensive research and assessments that have gone into the study of marijuana’s health benefits, several states have since opted to legalize the use of cannabinoid drugs from the outstanding results of the analysis. Some of which have concretely stated the medical conditions approved under which the use of cannabis is legal. Read on for more information about medical marijuana legalization in various states.
The State of Alaska had the Ballot Measure 8 approved on November 3, 1988, and began being effective in 1999. The Bill approves the use of medical cannabis on cancer, HIV and AIDS, glaucoma in cases of severe pain, seizures, and other conditions approved by the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.
Arkansas had Issue 6 of the Medical Marijuana Amendment approved on November 8, 2016. This amendment catered for the use of cannabis on Crohn’s disease, cancer, Tourette’s syndrome, fibromyalgia, PTSD, Alzheimer’s, and other chronic medical conditions.
Connecticut quickly gathered pace signing the HB 5389 into law in May 2012 by its Governor, Dannel P. Malloy. The law approves the use of medical cannabis on multiple sclerosis, sickle cell disease, ulcerative colitis, spasticity epilepsy, glaucoma, neuropathic pain, and other medical conditions approved by the state department.
Delaware signed Senate Bill 17 into law in May 2011. The law renders cannabis legal for medical conditions such as autism, glaucoma, PTSD, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and other prescribed conditions.
The state of Florida approved Amendment 2 of the Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative in November 2016, supporting the use of medicinal cannabis on medical conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, PTSD, epilepsy, Crohn’s Disease, HIV and AIDS, and other terminal conditions diagnosed by the physician. The number of plants and the usable amount of marijuana is still to be determined.
Illinois had its House Bill 1 approved by House in April 2013 and was signed into law in August 2013 and was effective from 2014. It supported up to 2.5 ounces of recreational use and restricted a maximum of 5 plants for the same use. On the medical side, it supports the use of cannabis on Arnold-Chiari malformation, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, causalgia, hepatitis C, hydromyelia, lupus, fibrous dysplasia, neurofibromatosis, spinal cord injuries, Ehler-Danlos Syndrome, nail-patella concussion syndrome, reflex sympathetic dystrophy, and terminal illnesses with a less than 6-month life expectancy.
Louisiana State approved Senate Bill 271 on May 11, 2016, restricting its cultivation and distribution to a one-month supply for recreational use. The approved conditions for medical cannabis use are muscular dystrophy, intractable pain, cachexia, cancer, PTSD, multiple sclerosis, and other prescribed conditions.
The state of West Virginia has Senate Bill 386 signed into law by the then Governor Jim Justice in April 2017. Stating the allowance of cannabinoids on medical conditions that call for palliative care for a patient, severe chronic pains, PTSD, seizures, refractory generalized anxiety disorder, and other debilitating diseases.
South Dakota approved the Initiated Measure 26 in November 2020, effective from August 2021. With a limitation of 3 plants, medicinal cannabis is allowed to be used on conditions with a lot of pain, severe muscle spasms, and other conditions.
Other than the above states, other U.S territories like Massachusetts, Maryland, Mane, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Missouri, etc., have their laws legalizing marijuana use for medicinal purposes. States with medical cannabis laws protect against arrest and confiscate a certain approved amount of marijuana and medical forms for a patient registry. The Bill signed into law covers the common policy questions on the dispensation, regulation, and registration of marijuana. Medical cannabis growers are referred as caregivers and have a limited number of products per patient.