Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the medical cannabis patients advocacy group, just released its annual report. It rated the efficacy of all the states with medical cannabis programs with a letter grade in conjunction with a point grade. The winner is Illinois! We came in first with a rating of B+ and a point total of 89.9 points. No state received an A grade. 19 states received a B grade or better and more than a dozen received a grade of F-. 39 states’ laws improved last year. 6 states still have no program at all with several still grappling with restrictive laws, limited access or very high prices
The rating was based on the following 5 criteria:
- Patients Rights and Civil Protection from Discrimination, including arrests and DUI protections
- Access to Medicine of all types, including edibles, topicals, tinctures, oils, etc
- Ease of Navigation, including fees schedule and qualifying conditions
- Functionality, including fair purchase and possession limits
- Consumer Safety and Provider Requirements, which rates the training of staff at all levels from growers to dispensaries
Each state scored 0-100 points per section and was awarded bonus points for significant positive changes from the previous year.
Illinois’ success was based on researching other states’ best practices, holding several Town Hall meetings and reading 10,000 public comments in order to shape the program. However, Illinois’ program has room for improvement. The prices remain higher than many patients can afford and there are a limited number of dispensaries, especially in the southern part of the state. Most patients would rather forego the extra time and expense required for fingerprinting and a background check. Felons are still not allowed to apply for a card. Delivery is not an option. This particularly impacts the housebound and disabled who must depend on a caregiver to purchase their medicine. Not enough Illinois doctors are educated on the benefits of cannabis. Many patients have difficulty finding a doctor willing to sign the necessary paperwork for the application. Just about every patient would prefer the opportunity to grow medicine on their own premises or in a collective garden. That is not an option.
On the positive side, the cannabis products are some of the safest and cleanest available anywhere in the country. The required lab testing is comprehensive; it guarantees safe medicine free from contaminants, toxins and pesticides. Patients are protected from law enforcement prosecution as long as they follow the usage rules put in place by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). Their website is user friendly, especially in facilitating the application process. Illinois has many private agencies that help patients navigate the process. There are several online grassroots patients support groups whose members answer a myriad of questions. They are a great comfort for those new to medical cannabis usage. They provide information about how to apply for a card, the best strain for a qualifying condition, paraphernalia recommendations and even how to dispose of your empty medicine containers. According to the majority of patients, Illinois’ MCPP is a great success with patient numbers steadily growing. It has been extended until 2020 with hopes that it will become a permanent program for years to come.
ASA’s goal is to encourage doctors to recommend cannabis for their patients upon diagnosis of a chronic condition rather than waiting until their condition significantly worsens.This will require a big push to educate doctors, many of whom are still uninformed, misinformed or opposed to medical cannabis usage. Medical cannabis has also been shown to help wean patients off of addictive pharmaceutical drugs. Medical cannabis is becoming more and more recognized as a safe medical option with 60% of Americans supporting its legalization.
Source: Leafly.com These Are The 10 Best and Worst States for Medical Cannabis, Hayley Fox, March 15, 2017