The cannabis plant has a long history of human use that spans thousands of years. It’s been used for making rope, textiles, and other products, for spiritual, religious and ceremonial rituals, and most importantly, as medicine. In recent years, the use of medical marijuana has increased significantly as a result of numerous clinical trials which show that cannabis can help treat a wide array of medical conditions, such as chronic pain, epilepsy, nausea, muscle spasms, and others.
The legalization laws concerning the medical use of cannabis have been especially prevalent in the US where qualifying patients with a valid medical marijuana card (MMJ card) can legally vape, eat, dab, or smoke medical marijuana. However, while weed is legal for MMJ cardholders, it is still classified as a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law. So, if you want to learn more about where smoking medical marijuana is legal in the US, keep on reading.
What Is Medical Marijuana?
If you’ve ever wondered about the difference between medical and recreational marijuana, you might be surprised to know that there really isn’t any. What separates medical from recreational marijuana users, is that medical marijuana patients have a medical condition which is legally treated or managed with cannabis. Some medical cannabis strains can have a higher CBD content and a lower THC content for increased therapeutic potency, however, depending on the condition they’re treating, different users are prescribed different strains. The goal is to purchase high-quality cannabis which is prescribed by a healthcare professional to best treat a specific illness.
In most US states where medical marijuana is legal, the patient needs to be over 18 years of age, have a valid medical marijuana card, and have a qualifying condition in the state where they’re applying for the card. Medical marijuana is less expensive compared to recreational marijuana, as it isn’t taxed the same.
Medical Marijuana Laws in the US
Medical cannabis wasn’t always legal in the USA. In fact, after the passing of the Controlled Substances Act in 1971, cannabis was illegal for both medical and recreational purposes on a federal level. However, the laws on medical marijuana have changed since the Controlled Substances Act was passed and California became the first state to legalize the use of medical marijuana back in 1996.
When it comes to the legalization of medication containing cannabis, only a handful of drugs have been approved on a federal level. One of those drugs is Epidiolex, which is used as prescription medicine for people who suffer from epilepsy, specifically Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome approved in 2018. Apart from Epidiolex, there are two other drugs, Dronabinol (Marinol) and Nabilone (Cesamet), that contain cannabinoids and are approved as a treatment option for patients suffering from nausea and vomiting as a side effect of chemotherapy (back in 1985).
However, in 2018, after a lot of testing and numerous clinical trials on the effects of CBD, it was legalized on a federal level after the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill. As a result, medical marijuana patients with a valid medical marijuana card could purchase CBD or CBD products that contain less than 0.3% of THC.
On a state level, a number of states have approved the medical use of marijuana for certain medical conditions and the regulation around it is mainly left up to the state. Exactly 36 US states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana, while 18 states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana.
Where in the US Is Smoking Medical Marijuana Legal if You Have a Valid Medical Marijuana Card?
More US states have legalized cannabis for medical purposes compared to those that have legalized the recreational use of marijuana. Medical marijuana is legal in the following states:
- District of Columbia;
- New Hampshire;
- New Jersey;
- New Mexico;
- New York;
- North Dakota;
- Rhode Island;
- South Dakota;
- West Virginia.
Regulations for Medical Marijuana Patients and Designated Primary Caregivers
Apart from the patients who can legally obtain a medical marijuana card, the designated primary caregivers of the patients can also buy cannabis from licensed dispensaries or legally grow a certain amount of marijuana (though the laws are different in each state), so it’s best that you check the regulation of the state where you live. Under state law, patients and caregivers are protected from arrest and criminal sanctions if they comply with the state regulation regarding the legal amounts of marijuana they can possess.
Designated primary caregivers can also administer medical marijuana or medical marijuana extracts to their kids if they are getting treatment for conditions which require the use of medical marijuana. Qualified patients with a valid medical marijuana card can also purchase and possess cannabis in other states apart from the one that has issued the card.
Conditions That Medical Cannabis Is Used to Treat or Manage Around the US
Medical marijuana is used to treat a number of medical conditions, and we’ve covered how it affects certain medical conditions in previous articles such as whether weed raises blood pressure, whether you can get medical marijuana for diabetes, marijuana strains that help with inflammation, marijuana strains that are good for treating anxiety, and others. Though, when it comes to which medical condition a patient needs to have to obtain a medical marijuana card, each state has different regulations.
Medical cannabis is legalized for a number of medical conditions in various states in the US. The conditions which are treated or managed with medical marijuana include:
- Age-related macular degeneration;
- Alzheimer’s disease;
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS);
- Anorexia nervosa;
- Autism spectrum disorders;
- Brain injury;
- Bulimia nervosa;
- Cachexia, anorexia, or wasting syndrome;
- Chemotherapy-induced anorexia;
- Chronic pain;
- Chronic vocal or motor tic disorder;
- Crohn’s disease;
- Corticobasal degeneration;
- Decompensated cirrhosis;
- Dementia-related agitation;
- Dyskinetic or spastic movement disorders;
- Ehlers-Danlos syndrome;
- Elevated intraocular pressure;
- Hepatitis C;
- Hospice care patients;
- Huntington’s disease;
- Inflammatory bowel disease;
- Interstitial cystitis;
- Mitochondrial disease;
- Muscular dystrophy;
- Multiple sclerosis;
- Opioid management;
- Parkinson’s disease;
- Persistent nausea (except nausea caused by pregnancy);
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD);
- Rheumatoid arthritis;
- Sickle cell disease;
- Seizure disorders/spasticity;
- Severe and persistent muscle spasms;
- Severe or end-stage peripheral neuropathy;
- Sleep apnea;
- Spinal cord damage;
- Spinal stenosis;
- Terminal illness;
- Traumatic brain injury;
- Tourette’s syndrome;
- Ulcerative colitis.
Patients with a valid medical marijuana card can purchase cannabis-infused tinctures, capsules, topical solutions, patches, smokable cannabis flowers, and other cannabis products from licensed medical marijuana dispensaries. However, restrictions do apply when it comes to the place where the consumption of medical cannabis occurs, as you’re not allowed to consume it in a public place (like your workplace, unless it has less than 0.3% of THC). Also, keep in mind that each state has its own laws about qualifying medical marijuana conditions, so for example, if a medical condition is treated with cannabis in Colorado, it doesn’t mean that it can be treated with cannabis in Ohio as well.
Since each state has different laws and regulations on medical marijuana, the best option would be to check state by state to see which medical conditions are on the list for obtaining a medical marijuana card (since cannabis is still a controlled substance).
If you are a medical marijuana patient and you do possess a Medical Marijuana (MMJ) card, you can legally purchase cannabis pills, topicals, raw flowers, and other products from licensed dispensaries. Just make sure that you talk to your healthcare provider about your medical regime so you can make an informed decision regarding your health.