Millions of Americans now have access to medical marijuana. But millions more do not, and attempts to change that have hit a brick wall in some states. Medical marijuana is inaccessible to 34 percent of the states in the country and remains illegal on a federal level.
This fact is a fly in the face of national sentiment. Based on the most recent nationwide survey by Gallup, 66 percent of Americans favor legalizing marijuana.
2020 offers hope for some cannabis-prohibited states. A committee in the Kentucky House of Representatives recently passed historic legislation to legalize medical marijuana, Marijuana Moment first reported. The bill is getting snagged in the Senate, where some claim more research is needed before legalization. A similar bill has passed through the Senate Committee in Alabama, and it advances to the House this year.
Still, it’s an uphill climb in both states. And they are part of a large swath of the country that still hasn’t legalized marijuana for any type of use.
Millions live in states where politicians have not followed public sentiment.
Legal medical marijuana has been around since 1995 when California first made it legal for certain conditions with Proposition 215. Over the years, other states have followed the path blazed on the West Coast, including Colorado. The laws vary by state, but common conditions and illnesses that states allow for treatment by medical marijuana include glaucoma, epileptic seizures, and to treat the pain and nausea experienced by cancer patients.
But while the medical marijuana industry has been growing, 17 states have not joined the trend. Governing, a publication that tailors its content for public officials, maintains a map of states that have passed “no broad laws legalizing marijuana.” They include:
- South Dakota
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
There are 50 million people alone living in Texas, Georgia, and North Carolina, all of which rank among the most populous states in the U.S. That’s a significant portion of the country where people have been denied access to medical marijuana.
Cannabis sales at dispensaries near state borders indicate how Americans feel about this division.
A way to see how Americans are dealing with this divide in the country over marijuana is easy to find when looking at how well dispensaries are performing when situated near the border of a state that doesn’t allow medical marijuana sales.
Essentially, access for Americans in cannabis-prohibited states has forced them to cross the border (and ignore the risk and its federal illegality).
In Oregon, for example, a recent state report found that Oregon dispensaries near the border with Idaho had per-person sales 420 percent higher than dispensaries in other parts of the state. The state estimates that 75 percent of the increase is attributable to people crossing the border from Idaho.
Idaho doesn’t allow the sale of any type of marijuana. Technically, people from Idaho are breaking the law by crossing the border, buying marijuana and bringing it back to their state.
But the same can be said of the people of Ohio, who apparently are crossing the border into Michigan in large numbers to buy adult-use weed before bringing it back into the Buckeye State. Medical marijuana is legal in Ohio, but not recreational marijuana.
Until both medical and adult-use marijuana are legal nationwide — something that could happen in 2021 depending on who is elected president —people in Ohio, Idaho, and the long list of other states, may likely continue to cross the borders rather than wait for lawmakers to catch up with public sentiment.