Maryland’s medical cannabis program leads the nation in product testing and labeling and has taken the steps necessary to ensure that all products meet compliance requirements, according to a new report from Americans for Safe Access.
The report states that “Maryland requires the full suite of product testing, including testing for potency (cannabinoids and terpenes) as well as contaminants, including pesticides, heavy metals, and residual solvents. Mayland’s labeling requirements include cannabinoids, terpenes, ingredients, and allergens.”
The report states that Maryland also received full points for staff training, complaints, adverse event reporting, and recall protocol. The state’s cannabis laboratory operations received full points for standard operating procedures, quality systems management, and results reporting.
“Overall, Maryland is taking the steps necessary to ensure that only compliant products reach the shelves. Employee training and the use of standard operating procedures are key elements in providing consistent products that are free from adulteration or contamination. Additionally, product testing requirements aim to ensure that only products that meet the safety standards are on the shelves and that the products are labeled such that the consumer has full knowledge of the ingredients.”
The report “2022 State of the States Report: An Analysis of Medical Cannabis Access in the United States” grades the effectiveness of each medical cannabis program in the country from a patient’s perspective. The grade is based on more than 100 categories, including barriers to access, civil protections, affordability, health and social equity, and product safety.
States aren't meeting the needs of medical cannabis patients
The report found that states are falling short in meeting the needs of medical cannabis patients, who are also feeling negative impacts from the spread of adult-use marijuana legalization across the country.
“Although the majority of states now have some form of a medical cannabis program, there is still not one program in the country that meets the needs of all patients,” the report concluded.
“Patients in all of these states have been advocating for a medical cannabis program for years, and it appears as though lawmakers are willing to skip over patients and their needs to go straight to adult use only. There is no reason why these states cannot pass a robust medical cannabis program in conjunction with adult use,” they added.
The highest-ranking state in the 2022 report was Maryland, which unseated last year’s top state, Maine. Arizona received the highest grade for patient rights and civil protections, Maine was the top state for access to medicine and program functionality, Ohio for health and social equality, and Illinois and Virginia tied for the top spot on affordability.
Many states are falling short on product testing and labeling
Regarding product testing and labeling, the report states “this is one area in which we saw positive trends for the year, with a number of states adding or amending testing requirements for cannabis products. While this is a positive trend this year, there are still many states that fall well below minimum standards, and this remains one of the lowest-scoring categories across the country.”
Americans for Safe Access, which works to ensure safe and legal access to marijuana for therapeutic use and research, distributes the report to state legislators and regulators and a consortium of health and patient organizations throughout the country.
The report also includes a checklist of minimum essential policies that ASA states must be included in recreational cannabis laws and regulations.
- Expand eligibility for all medical conditions
- Remove patient registration fee and allow multi-year registrations
- Remove restrictive caregiver requirements and remove caregiver registration fees
- Exempt medical cannabis programs from sales and excise taxes
- Exempt medical cannabis supply chain from taxes
- Prioritize Patient Access & Medical Cannabis Product Inventory If Dual Market Licensing is Granted
- Expand and Prioritize Licensing for Medical Cannabis Businesses
- Expand Access to Independent Cannabis Testing Laboratories
- Create Proficiency Testing for Cannabis Testing Laboratories
- Provide Full Reciprocity for Out-of-State Patients
- Allow Home Cultivation for Patients
- Keep Recreational and Medical Cannabis Separately Regulated by Appropriate Agencies
In a press release announcing the publication of the report, Debbi Churgai, Executive Director of ASA stated that the report also emphasizes the importance of federal cannabis legalization.
The role of federal legalization
“In creating this report, it was made clear of the burden that would be lifted off states if the federal government passed comprehensive medical cannabis federal legislation,” Churgai said.
“It is ASA’s hope that the report will inspire a renewed commitment in state policymakers to work with ASA and our advocates to not only improve state laws for patients but to end the federal prohibition on cannabis once and for all,” she added.
Though medical marijuana and adult-use cannabis are not legal on the federal level, there are currently 37 states with medical cannabis programs, in addition to the District of Columbia. There are 13 states that either have no medical cannabis program or only allow the legal use of CBD or very low-THC cannabis for medical purposes.