The annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health included a question about medical cannabis consumption for the first time in 2013. That same question has been asked every year since. Unsurprisingly, the data shows that medical cannabis consumption doubled between 2013 and 2020. State legalization is largely credited for its growth.
If you follow medical cannabis news, you are probably not surprised by the data. Even if not all the growth is organic, it stands to reason that people afraid to report medical cannabis use prior to state legalization are now more inclined to do so.
Up to 38 States
The total number of states with legal medical cannabis programs is now up to 38. The District of Columbia and several U.S. territories have also given the green light. What about the remaining 12 states? It is probably only a matter of time before they fall as well. Medical cannabis will likely be as commonplace as prescription antibiotics at some point in the future.
The interesting thing is that cannabis is still illegal under federal law. It remains a Schedule I controlled substance that cannot be cultivated without special permission from Washington. It cannot be processed, sold at retail, or even transported across state lines. So how do the states get away with it? They are counting on Washington to continue turning a blind eye.
States Have Their Own Rules
All the states with medical cannabis programs have their own rules. For example, the owners of the Pure Utah medical cannabis dispensary in Payson, UT, says that all cannabis consumed in the state must be cultivated and processed there. Utah also limits the number of licenses it issues to growers and dispensaries. There are no limits on processor licenses.
Utah regulations have resulted in patients that have access to just 15 dispensaries throughout the entire state. By contrast, Oklahoma places no limits on dispensary licenses. There are currently more than 2,000 active dispensaries in the state.
Then there are states with both medical and recreational programs. New York is one of them. In the Empire State, any adult aged 21 or older can legally purchase and possess a certain amount of recreational marijuana. Only those registered with the state’s medical cannabis program can purchase products from a medical dispensary.
Say ‘Okay’ and People Will Use
Getting back to the previously cited data, the fact that medical cannabis consumption has doubled makes perfect sense. Give the okay to something that was previously illegal, and people will use it. That is the nature of the beast.
The only real question is how many people officially use medical cannabis as opposed to purchasing recreational products but for medical purposes. It is a legitimate question when you consider a thriving black market across the country.
California’s black market is legendary at this point. It routinely outpaces the legal market in terms of sales. It is not hard to understand why, either. Between taxes and regulations, it is extremely difficult for a legal operator to sell us cheaply as a black market operator. The result is that buyers can purchase from the black market more cheaply.
It’s All Just Cannabis to Some
The data on medical cannabis consumption is probably good news to people who support medical programs on a state-by-state basis. But to others, it is irrelevant. To them, it’s all cannabis regardless of whether it is purchased medically or recreationally.
How do you feel about the data? Are you happy to learn that medical cannabis consumption has doubled over the last decade? The safe money says the numbers will only keep increasing.