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Which states have legalized cannabis for adult use?

So far, in the United States, there is no law at the federal level that makes cannabis accessible to adults nationwide. There are, however, states that have independently legalized the plant for adults to possess and consume recreationally. Some of the most prominent states that have done so include:

  • Colorado
  • Washington
  • California
  • Oregon
  • Nevada

For a full list of states that have enacted such measures, click here.

What is the difference between recreational and medical cannabis?

In most markets that have legalized for adult use (i.e. recreational use), there was already a preexisting market for medical cannabis that was established by advocates and activists in order to serve patients within the state who benefit from cannabis therapy.

When adult use markets are established, there has typically been a major impact on the existing medical market, often resulting in patients not being able to find a reliable source for the medicine that they had relied upon previously. Not all cannabis is created equal, and when the objective for producers is focused on profit as opposed to producing the best-quality medicine, those who remain focused on cultivating medicinal-grade cannabis are often unable to grow at a large enough scale to compete in the market (if they are able to acquire a license at all).

Similarly, products intended for medical use may not be as easy to sell in an adult-use dispensary, so brands tend not to focus on them. This means certain types of products that are in high-demand by medical patients, such as suppositories, tinctures, and RSO, may not even be available at dispensaries near where a patient lives.

How can state markets properly balance medical access with adult use?

When creating infrastructure and market regulations for an adult use industry, lawmakers and regulators should take into account the impact that the system is likely to have on patients. Concerns about competition between medical and adult use businesses should be set aside in favor of creating an accessible market for consumers.

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