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Top States That Legally Allow Medical Marijuana but are Struggling To Make It Accessible


Marijuana map of legal weed

Many states are facing setbacks and hurdles during the implementation of their marijuana laws. Legislators all over the country are struggling to implement the regulations necessary for medical marijuana programs to function properly. This causes long waiting periods and confusing procedures for patients in need of the legalized drug.

Below are the seven states that are having difficulty implementing their marijuana legalization laws:


In 2012, Massachusetts’s voters approved via ballot initiative the legalization of medical marijuana and state-regulated dispensaries, but over complicated licensing procedures allowed not a single dispensary to open. Two dozen lawsuits followed a two-and-a-half-year wait for the law to be enforced.


Enrollment in Minnesota’s medical marijuana program just kicked off, and patients will be legally able to purchase the plant when dispensaries open on July 1. But with a short list of qualifying conditions for patients (nine) and a low maximum number of dispensaries (eight), the program is one of the strictest in the country. Home growing is banned, along with the smokeable marijuana (but not vaping); rather than allowing the raw cannabis plant, only extracts like oils and pills are OK under the law. Patients face a stiff $200 annual enrollment fee for the program, and a host of regulations may deter physicians from involvement.


After legalizing medical marijuana in 2013, Illinois is in its second year of a four-year medical marijuana pilot program, but with no existing dispensaries to assess. Gov. Pat Quinn left office without issuing any licenses for medical marijuana distribution, prompting his replacement, Bruce Rauner, to swiftly condemn Quinn’s inaction and issue a slew of licenses for providers in January. Still, dispensaries are not expected to open until the fall.


After Delaware legalized medical marijuana back in 2011, the state’s governor, Jack Markell, suspended implementation of the program for years, citing fear of federal intervention and a threatening letter the U.S. Attorney’s Office sent the state in 2012. (Congress banned federal funds from being used to intervene in state-authorized medical marijuana programs this past December.) The law requires one medical marijuana dispensary per county, but authorized patients – there are only 200 of them – are still waiting for the first and only licensed dispensary (a pilot program) to open. It will grow only 150 marijuana plants.

New Jersey

In January of 2010, the New Jersey legislature approved a medical marijuana program set to go into effect six months after enactment, but Gov. Chris Christie’s hard-line objections prompted stifling disagreements between him, the state’s Department of Human Services and the legislature. The first dispensary didn’t open until three years later, in 2013, and its role as the sole provider of medical marijuana in the state prompted complaints from registered patients about limited access and long waits. Today, the state’s program remains only half operational, with just three of the six dispensaries allowed by the law open for business.

New Hampshire

In 2013, New Hampshire passed legislation allowing just four state-licensed dispensaries to treat patients suffering from only five qualifying medical conditions. The law mandated that the state Department of Health and Human Services approve at least two dispensaries by the end of January 2015. So far it has approved zero. Without legal home grows or a process to even apply for a medical marijuana card, New Hampshire residents who would be covered under the law have no protection from prosecution. Dispensaries are not expected to open until January of 2016; qualifying patients will be able to register for the program a few months before they open shop.


Texas joins more than a dozen states that, since early 2014, have passed legislation legalizing marijuana with high CBD levels and low or no THC levels for the treatment of devastating seizure disorders. This form of marijuana legalization is rarely functional, often because states fail to build the regulations to provide the medicine, or because they rely on federal permission they will not receive while marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug.



What this list displays is that all of the states above is that even though the policies for legalized marijuana are popular, these states are having a hard time due to the lack of experience and logistical failures. The laws are ahead of their time.

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