When people hear that 24 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana, they think it’s easy to access it in those states to treat their ailments. However, that’s rarely the case.
Licensing laws and medical marijuana registration regulations for patients often make it challenging to access it—even for approved medical conditions. Making matters worse is the fact that laws vary from state-to-state, and what’s covered in one state might not be covered in another.
Of course, marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, and until that changes, the disparity between state laws will continue. As Kenneth E. Leonard, Director and Senior Research Scientist at the Research Institute of Addictions at the University of Buffalo, State University of New York, explained in a recent article for The Conversation, “What counts as medical marijuana varies from state to state,” and states all say medical marijuana can treat a different collection of conditions.
A Lot of Conditions
States that have legalized medical marijuana cover anywhere from seven to 35 conditions. Nearly one-third of the states where medical marijuana is legal cover 10 or fewer conditions each while Illinois covers far more than any other state with 35 on its list. On average, most states cover nine to 15 conditions.
Among the 56 conditions covered across the country are:
- Chronic/Severe/Intractable Pain
- Muscle Spasticity
- Chron’s Disease
- Hepatitus C
- Spinal Cord Injury/Disease
- Terminal Illness
- Muscular Dystrophy
- Nail Patella
- Traumatic Brain Injury
- Huntington’s Disease
- Severe Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis
- Tourette Syndrome
- Ulcerative Colitis
- Arnold-Chiari Malformation and Syringomelia
- Cervical Dystonia
- Cervical Dystonia 2
- Chronic Pancreatitis
- Chronic Renal Failure
- Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Type 2
- Decompensated Cirrhosis
- Fibrous Dysplasia
- Interstitial Cystitis
- Myasthenia Gravis
- Post Laminectomy Syndrome
- Post-concussion Syndrome
- Residual Limb Pain
- Severe Fibromyalgia
- Sickle Cell Disease
- Sjogren’s Syndrome
- Spinocerebellar Ataxia (SCA)
- Use of AZT or Protease Inhibitors
- Anything a doctor think would be helped by marijuana
Not A Lot of Coverage
Despite the fact that so many conditions are covered, the number of registered medical marijuana patients in each state where it’s legal is very small. That means a lot of people suffering from covered conditions are not yet being certified to obtain medical marijuana. In other words, the underserved market is very large.
This is true even in states where the medical marijuana market is more mature, like Colorado. Despite having the highest patient penetration rate of all the states, only 1.98% of Colorado’s population are registered as medical marijuana patients.
Currently, the consumer market for medical marijuana is limited by two things: conditions covered and the ability of patients’ to actually get certified to access medical marijuana. The former is controlled entirely by lawmakers while the latter is controlled by lawmakers and doctors who need to recommend medical marijuana for their patients.
Perhaps even more interesting is the fact that the vast majority of medical marijuana patients across the country are certified to receive the drug to treat chronic pain. Would you be surprised to know that four conditions dominate medical marijuana certifications in this country?
Cannabiz Media is developing a state-by-state report about the value of marijuana licenses in the U.S, and conditions, particularly the top four, play an important role in the research. Subscribe to the Cannabiz Media newsletter so you don’t miss the announcement when the report is available with all of the details.
Susan Gunelius, Lead Analyst for Cannabiz Media and author of Marijuana Licensing Reference Guide: 2017 Edition, is also President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company offering, copywriting, content marketing, email marketing, social media marketing, and strategic branding services. She spent the first half of her 25-year career directing marketing programs for AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more as well as small businesses around the world. Susan has written 11 marketing-related books, including the highly popular Content Marketing for Dummies, 30-Minute Social Media Marketing, Kick-ass Copywriting in 10 Easy Steps, The Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing, and she is a popular marketing and branding keynote speaker. She is also a Certified Career Coach and Founder and Editor in Chief of Women on Business, an award-winning blog for business women. Susan holds a B.S. in marketing and an M.B.A in management and strategy.