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As it stands in 2018, medical marijuana sits at a distinctive crossroads in American society. Over half of the country has embraced it; 29 states have legalized the drug for medicinal purposes, with the 30th state almost sure to follow this year. Across the remaining 20 states, however, medical marijuana remains a contentious issue. Some are dead set on never leaglazing it at all. The problem is that a medical marijuana initiative would not be a federal law; each state has to make their own laws when it comes to MMJ, hence the wildly varying results and surprising outcomes.
Take New York for instance. Many thought that due to its liberal leanings, New York would be a flagship state for the legalization of MMJ. On the contrary, NY’s initial attempt at medical marijuana was one of the most conservative in the country, coming a full 18 years after California first legalized MMJ in the U.S. in 1996. There have since been concerted efforts to overturn some of the more restrictive legislature, with varying degrees of success. What it does prove is that MMJ law is a tricky subject to get a handle on for many state governments, and it could be a while before we see a U.S. with 50 MMJ friendly states. That doesn’t mean there aren’t areas of the country that are fully pro-medical marijuana; there certainly are. If you’re wondering where exactly they are, then luckily you have to look no further than this handy article!
California places number one on this list of MMJ friendly states, as it was the first to take the leap and legalize medical marijuana way back in 1996. The Compassionate Use Act, or Proposition 215, was a revolutionary piece of legislature that paved the way for future states to lay their own groundwork. In the 22 years since it pioneered MMJ law, California’s enthusiasm for the treatment has not waned. Recently, the state passed a law that aimed to legalize recreational marijuana from the beginning of 2018. While some thought that the introduction of this legislature might make medical marijuana obsolete in California, in fact, the exact opposite turned out to be true. The government reaffirmed its commitment to its MMJ program by introducing a sales tax rebate for all medical marijuana patients or holders of a medical marijuana card. As recreational marijuana is slowly introduced into the Sunshine State, it looks as though MMJ will remain as strong as ever.
Colorado was hot on California’s heels, and was one of the first states to legalize medical marijuana in the country; their legislature passed in 2000. Most marijuana advocates will recognise Colorado as the pioneer of recreational marijuana legalization, however. The state took that previously unheard-of initiative back in 2012. It makes sense that a state that has been committed to medical marijuana since the early days was also keen to legalize recreational marijuana, and like California, their initiatives go hand-in-hand. When it comes to MMJ, however, the Colorado market is startlingly robust, based on over seventeen years of experience. The MMJ industry is worth around $450 million to the state, so it’s no surprise that they’re keeping it in tip-top shape.
Colorado is often thought of as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana and is often seen as the poster state for the cause. However, Washington was equally pioneering, and legalized at exactly the same time as Colorado in 2012, paving the way for recreational marijuana laws to be loosened across the country. In fact, Washington is AHEAD of Colorado when it comes to medical marijuana. The state passed Initiative 692 in November 1998, just two short years after California trailblazed the initiative. The list of Washington’s qualifying conditions is also pretty extensive, making medical marijuana available to all sorts of patients who may be able to benefit from the medicine. Through the years Washington has seen extensive amendments to their medical marijuana bill, and in 2018, it proudly stands as one of the most inclusive and progressive MMJ friendly states in the country.
Maine might seem like an odd entry on this list, but it’s certainly doing its part to progress the MMJ cause. Medical marijuana became legal in 1999 (so even before Colorado), but under very strict regulations. This rules were relaxed significantly in 2005 with the passing of Question 5, which aimed to explicitly establish a Maine Medical Marijuana Act. Since then, the state has gone from strength to strength when it comes to MMJ; the most recent example of this advocation came just at the beginning of this year, when the state’s health care body approved progressive new legislature. These new remits will see an increase in the number of dispensary licenses across the state, while also loosening requirements under which medical marijuana can be used.
The above MMJ friendly states are shining examples of progressive medical marijuana treatment, but they are by no means the only states doing great work to advocate the cause. Hopefully their leadership on this important cause can inspire other states to investigate legalizing MMJ in their own territories.