And in other states ‘medical marijuana’ means a marijuana extract

In 15 states, medical marijuana laws allow people to possess only one specific marijuana extract, CBD, the component that does not produce a high. Possessing marijuana itself or cultivating plants isn’t allowed.

If you live in Minnesota, New York or Pennsylvania, state laws prohibit “smokeable marijuana” but do allow marijuana extracts in nonsmokeable forms, such as oils that can be vaporized, oral solutions and capsules. These products are manufactured with specific amounts of THC and CBD.


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Now that we have sorted out the different types of medical marijuana states permit, let’s move on to the next major variation in medical marijuana legislation – what conditions medical marijuana can treat.

What do states say medical marijuana can treat?

Most states that allow people to possess or cultivate marijuana for medical purposes allow its use to treat many medical conditions, including pain, nausea, HIV/AIDS, seizures and glaucoma. As of now, nine states also allow for the use of marijuana for post-traumatic stress disorder.

The most liberal of the states, California, goes a step further. Not only is medical marijuana permitted to treat all of these conditions, but also for any other major illness where marijuana has been “deemed appropriate and has been recommended by a physician.”

Remember, in some states the only “medical marijuana” permitted is an extract, CBD. One of these states, Kentucky, allows CBD only for people in a state-sponsored clinical trial.

The other 14 states that allow the use of CBD allow it only for “debilitating,” “severe” or “intractable” epilepsy. Most of these states do not have dispensaries where CBD can be purchased, or they have one single source, usually a a medical school. So if a physician in these states determines that a patient would benefit from CBD, a patient would have to travel to another state with a dispensary that sells CBD.

And, of course, it gets even more complicated. Many of the states with legal dispensaries of CBD are not permitted to provide it to nonresidents. That means that even CBD though is legal in some states, it is effectively unavailable for most who might benefit.

Why is there so much variation between the states?

Marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 Drug, a category reserved for substances with “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” This makes research on marijuana medical applications difficult.

As Nora Volkow, the Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, pointed out, “medical research can and is being done with schedule I substances; however, there are strict regulations and administrative hurdles associated with this status.”

With research about medical marijuana moving so slowly, states, often based on citizen lobbying efforts, have acted, creating legislation that might be based more on opinion than on evidence.

Whatever your opinion is on the legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes, the array of state and federal laws regarding the use of medical marijuana is confusing and problematic for those who might benefit from such a program. It is vitally important that we clear the hurdles to clinical research on marijuana, and that we accelerate research addressing the potential benefits and harms.

Kenneth E. Leonard, Director, Senior Research Scientist at the Research Institute on Addictions, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.