A new report from Americans For Safe Access shares recommendations that programs can make, especially when it comes to regulatory language and legislations.
Americans for Safe Access (ASA) has just released their latest annual report, entitled: “2021 State of the States report: An Analysis of Medical Cannabis Access in the United States” where they evaluate how well each state MMJ program is doing when it comes to patient care.
ASA categorizes states based on 100 categories including affordability, civil protections, barriers to access, product safety, social equity, penalties, and more. The report is given to state legislators each year in every state, including many patient and health organizations.
In addition, the report shares recommendations that programs can make, especially when it comes to regulatory language and legislations. Their first edition was released in 2014, and since then, state legislators have relied on their sound recommendations for improving their laws.
On February 22, 2022, a press briefing was held to discuss the report.
“With a decline in legislative improvements in state medical cannabis programs, millions of patients are left with limited or no access,” explained ASA Executive Director, Debbie Churgai. “It is ASA’s hope that the report will inspire a renewed commitment to patients by policymakers to improve state laws and end the federal prohibition once and for all.”
“Americans for Safe Access’ State of the States Report has been an important resource for me as I work to ensure all Pennsylvanians have access to medical cannabis,” said Chris Rabb, Pennsylvania State Representative.
There were only 7 states that saw an improvement in scores from 2020 to 2021: Arizona, Utah, Louisiana, Arkansas, North Dakota, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. Meanwhile, Maine got the highest grade of all states: B, and Illinois a B-. They were the only two that garnered grades higher than a C.
The two states that scored the lowest were Nebraska and Idaho, since they received 0 points due to prohibition.
Here’s a summary of ASA recommendations for some of the top selling cannabis states:
California, which is home to one of the world’s biggest legal cannabis market, surprisingly scored only a C+. Their recommendations for this year include encouraging lawmakers to reduce the gaps in civil protections for employed patients, as well as addressing housing and DUI discrimination problems. Patients in California are still experiencing workplace discrimination merely because of their status as an MMJ patient, and the fact that employers are still making hiring and firing decisions based on the employee’s use.
Furthermore, California residents are still having problems with renting since leases can be specified by tenants to prevent patients from consuming their cannabis at home. They also recommend that police officers be barred from discriminating patients during roadside sobriety evaluations since the ASA believes that patients should be exempted from roadside tests that want to evaluate how impaired one is. After all, they need their medication to function.
Colorado scored a C+ as well. In the report, the ASA was explicit in stating their disappointment with the path that Colorado’s lawmakers have chosen to go when it comes to cannabis law reform.
The ASA thinks that policymakers should have an emergency meeting to immediately repeal HB1317, which has been the biggest issue for MMJ patients in the state since it involves larger fees for the program, and patients are forced to go through several rounds of certification from physicians. What’s more, physicians will also be required to indicate a patient’s maximum dose, which will limit the sales a patient can buy. On top of that, HB1317 limits the cannabinoid levels since it places restrictions on potency so that patients in Colorado who are under 21 cannot buy concentrates.
For Colorado state legislators, protecting civil rights of patients should be a priority for 2022. It’s bad enough that patients still face the risk of losing custody of their kids as well as their job just because they are MMJ patients. They can also be denied organ transplants and can be subject to unfair discrimination for roadside testing. Landlords can also customize leases so that they can prevent patients from dosing at home.
Michigan scored a C on the report. The ASA recommends that lawmakers stop restricting caregivers from growing their own medicine since this is a critical way for them to make their medicine more affordable and accessible. Regulators should also consider other means of making the medicine more affordable such as by putting in place mechanisms like discounts and financial hardship waivers.
Policy makers should also provide additional patient rights such as housing and employment protections. Product recall processes are recommended for improvement so that products that are not affected wouldn’t be impacted by recalls, which can cause supply problems for patients.
Florida landed a D+, and the current laws clearly leave patients with little choice for many aspects especially when it comes to protecting patient civil rights. MMJ patients in Florida don’t have any protections that prevent employers from discriminating them, and the ASA recommends that these protections are extended for all kinds of employees.
Additionally, Florida patients also face issues when medicating at home. They also recommend that cannabis should be treated just like other types of prescription medications in the context of organ transplants and medical procedures. Parents should also not be denied any rights because they are patients.
Washington got a C- on the report. The ASA recommends lawmakers to also address other gaps in civil protections especially when it comes to DUI discrimination, housing, and employment.
Patients in Washington should be exempted from any roadside tests while lawmakers should seek strategies that can address resistance to patients accessing their medicine since there are numerous roadblocks around the state that cause patients difficulty in obtaining their medicine.
The complete report can be viewed here.