The East Coast still lags behind the West when it comes to cannabis legalization, but times are finally changing – at least in the Northern states. Maine, Massachusetts, the District of Columbia, and Vermont have legalized recreational cannabis. However, the Southern states are a different story. Virginia and the Carolinas continue a policy of across-the-board prohibition, while Georgia technically allows low-THC oil for a limited number of conditions, but offers no legal way for patients to access it. Florida has a medical program, but getting a recommendation and accessing medicine at a dispensary can be complicated. However, consumers from Maryland to Maine now have unprecedented access to cannabis. Here’s a breakdown of where things stand.
Maryland: Medical cannabis is legal, and recreational use of cannabis is decriminalized. The Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission provides an easy-to-navigate website (https://mmcc.maryland.gov/Pages/process_to_obtain.aspx) where potential patients may apply for a card. As of December 2018, the state has 71 licensed dispensaries. Maryland has a generous list of qualifying conditions, allowing doctors to recommend medical cannabis to treat “any condition that is severe, for which other medical treatments have been ineffective…if the symptoms ‘reasonably can be expected to be relieved’ by the medical use of Cannabis.” According to the Baltimore Sun, 60 percent of Maryland voters support legal recreational cannabis; however, since the state doesn’t allow voters to propose legislation, the path to legalization remains a complicated one.
Delaware: Medical cannabis is legal, and recreational use of cannabis is decriminalized. However, don’t look for recreational legalization to happen anytime soon; in July 2018, the Delaware House voted down a legalization bill. Currently, the state has only three dispensaries, so having a medical card doesn’t mean having easy access to medicine. If you’d like to apply for a medical card, you can do so at https://delaware.biotrackthc.net/patients/actions/
New Jersey: Medical cannabis is legal, and in late 2018, state lawmakers approved a bill that would legalize recreational marijuana. All that remains is a vote from the Democrat-controlled state legislature and a signature from Governor Phil Murphy. Given that Murphy ran on a platform of cannabis legalization, New Jersey can expect to see the end of prohibition in 2019. To apply for a medical card, go to https://njmmp.nj.gov/njmmp/jsp/patientRegProcess.jsp
New York: Medical cannabis is legal, but for now, patients can only buy vape cartridges, capsules, topical gels, and tinctures. However, with impending legalization in New Jersey, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has realized the futility (and inevitable economic loss) of prohibiting recreational cannabis. Cuomo, now with the full support of New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, has promised to make recreational legalization a top priority in 2019. With Democrats newly in control of the state Senate, this legislation should pass easily. This website will tell you more about how to get a medical cannabis evaluation and register for a card: https://www.health.ny.gov/regulations/medical_marijuana/patients/
Connecticut: Medical cannabis is legal, and recreational use of cannabis is decriminalized. New Connecticut governor Ned Lamont has stated that legalizing recreational cannabis will be one of his top priorities in 2019. For now, patients can qualify for medical cannabis for conditions including cancer, HIV/AIDS, spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, seizure disorders, and terminal illness requiring palliative care. The only psychiatric illness included on the list is post-traumatic stress disorder. As of 2018, Connecticut has nine licensed dispensaries, which sell flower as well as concentrates, edibles, vape pens, and sublingual sprays. Learn more about the state’s medical cannabis program here: https://portal.ct.gov/DCP/Medical-Marijuana-Program/Medical-Marijuana-Program
Rhode Island: Medical cannabis is legal, and recreational use of cannabis is decriminalized. Home cultivation of up to 12 plants and 12 seedlings is allowed, and cooperative cultivation by cardholders is allowed. The list of qualifying conditions is short, but includes chronic pain, epilepsy, Crohn’s disease, cancer, glaucoma, and HIV/AIDS. The state has three dispensaries, which sell to out-of-state medical patients as well as Rhode Island residents. If you’re interested in becoming a medical cardholder, you can download the application here: http://www.health.ri.gov/forms/registration/MedicalMarijuanaNewApplication.pdf
New Hampshire: Medical cannabis is legal, and recreational use of cannabis is decriminalized. However, home cultivation is not allowed, and the sale or possession of paraphernalia is a misdemeanor. The state has a generous list of qualifying conditions, but only four dispensaries, so procuring medicine can be difficult. New Hampshire allows medical patients from other states to consume cannabis legally if they bring it with them, but carrying medical cannabis across state borders remains federally illegal, so proceed with caution. Download an application and more information about the New Hampshire medical program here: https://www.dhhs.nh.gov/oos/tcp/applications-forms.htm
In summary, the East Coast states most likely to legalize in 2019 are New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. If you live in one of these states, you have a lot to look forward to in 2019. If you live in the Southern states, consider volunteering with NORML or Americans for Safe Access, which drive legalization efforts in prohibition states. If you’re lucky enough to live in Maine, Massachusetts, DC, or Vermont, enjoy locally grown cannabis and help support small businesses. Better yet, grow your own plants if you live in a state that allows home cultivation; this is legal in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine, Vermont, and the District of Columbia. Check local cultivation laws before attempting to grow cannabis, as states set limits on the number of mature plants and seedlings you’re allowed to possess, and where you’re allowed to grow them.
No matter what state you’re in, you can help fight the stigma around cannabis use by educating friends and neighbors. Ask your local dispensary or shop if you can be part of educational outreach efforts in your community, and help spread the word about the benefits of cannabis to those who might need it.