How Medical Marijuana Laws Vary State by State

The medical marijuana debate has become much less a debate that marijuana can be used for medical and therapeutic purposes contrary to the federal government’s classification of the substance as a schedule 1 narcotic with no medical value. A slew of states across the United States (US) have already passed their own medical cannabis laws and it all started with prop 215 in the late 1990s in California, which lies at the heart of domestic marijuana cultivation in the US. Later Cali’s 420 bill was passed. Recently, two states even passed measures to allow for recreational use, that is Washington and Colorado. Dispensaries and the marijuana business as a whole is set to become a multibillion dollar legitimate industry in the US, just as alcohol (re-emerged) did after its prohibition. Investors are lining up to get in on the action. Meanwhile, policy-makers are passing their own versions of medical marijuana laws and regulations. However, as the substance remains federally illegal and legal in some states under their own guidelines, the business behind the plant will remain variable across state lines and uncertain for those investors, even in the medical industry.

As an example, consider the variance in possession limits. In Alaska, the limit is 1 oz usable; 6 plants (3 mature, 3 immature) while in California the limit is 8 oz usable; 6 mature or 12 immature plants. In the District of Columbia (Washington DC), the limits are still being discussed: 2 oz dried; limits on other forms to be determined. This table illustrates how each state limits possession of Marijuana, what year their measures were passed in state legislative sessions and how the vote passed (yes vs no). As you can imagine, with all of the varying laws, it will be rather difficult for patients moving from one location to another to stay within the confines of that particular state’s legal guidelines. Also, remember, less than half of the US states actually have any medical cannabis laws on the books so it is still 100 percent illegal in those places. Interestingly, as many government initiatives go, the medical marijuana laws passed in each state were guided by policy groups and other states. For example, patient ID systems and vending at dispensaries are decided upon after carefully examining what is happening in other parts of the country where it is regulated. The variances, therefore, are mostly political in nature. Dispensaries, such as the Green Cross Collective, in the meantime have to be aware of the potential risks and uncertainties in the business.