Medical Marijuana Initiatives Approved by Four States

November 9, 2016

This Election Day, voters chose to legalize or expand medical marijuana in Arkansas, Florida, Montana, and North Dakota-every state where such a measure appeared on the ballot. Medical marijuana is now legal in 28 states and the District of Columbia.

This Election Day, voters chose to legalize or expand medical marijuana in Arkansas, Florida, Montana, and North Dakota—every state where such a measure appeared on the ballot. Medical marijuana is now legal in 28 states and the District of Columbia.

These measures, which will allow patients with qualifying conditions to obtain prescribed marijuana from licensed facilities, are the first of their kind in Arkansas and North Dakota and expanded the limited access available under the current laws in Florida and Montana.

For instance, the approval of Montana’s Medical Marijuana Initiative repealed both the 3-patient limit for each distributor licensed to provide medical marijuana and the required state review for physicians who prescribe marijuana for more than 25 patients in a year. It also now allows the prescription of marijuana for chronic pain or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Florida’s current law specified that only patients diagnosed with cancer or a condition that causes seizures or muscle spasms can use low-THC cannabis oil, but the newly approved amendment expands the number of conditions that would qualify patients to obtain medical marijuana at a state-regulated distribution center. Physicians can now prescribe cannabis for patients with HIV/AIDS, PTSD, Crohn’s disease, and more, as well as “other debilitating medical conditions” comparable to the listed diseases.

The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment, Issue 6, legalized marijuana as a treatment for 17 qualifying medical conditions. Issue 7, another medical marijuana initiative that would have permitted home growing for patients who live farther than 20 miles from a dispensary, was struck from the ballot after early voting had begun.

Finally, North Dakota approved its Medical Marijuana Legalization, Initiated Statutory Measure 5, which allows registered patients to obtain up to 3 ounces of medical marijuana with a registry identification card. It also allows patients to grow marijuana at home if they live more than 40 miles away from a dispensary.

Supporters of medical marijuana legalization point to studies that show that states with medical marijuana dispensaries had lower rates of opioid overdose deaths and fewer prescriptions for pain medication written to Medicare patients.

However, questions about health effects still abound due to marijuana’s federal classification as a Schedule I drug, which makes it difficult for scientists to research. Drugs in the Schedule I category, which also includes heroin, LSD, and ecstasy, are defined by the Drug Enforcement Administration as “drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”