You are on page 1of 10


time states have taken to implement medical cannabis laws has varied widely. On the
quickest end of the spectrum, Montana issue patient ID cards 41 days after voters approved
a medical cannabis initiative in 2004 and Oklahoma issued business licenses just two
months of that initiative’s June 2018 enactment. Oklahoma’s first medical marijuana
dispensaries opened three month of the law’s passage. Other states have also been able to
swiftly implement medical cannabis laws: In Minnesota, Maine, and New York, the first
dispensary sales occurred within 13 to 18 months of the law’s enactment.

In contrast, the slowest state to provide patients ID cards was Maryland where it took three
years. And in the slowest three states to implement medical cannabis access — Delaware,
Maryland, and Rhode Island — the first medical marijuana sales did not begin until 3.5 to
four years after passage. (In two of those cases, concerning signals from federal prosecutors
were largely to blame. 1)

MPP encourage states to implement medical cannabis laws swiftly and responsibly. States
should also grant patients who obtain a doctor’s written certification immediate protections
from arrest, rather than requiring them to needlessly suffer while they wait for a
governmental agency to issue ID cards. Medical cannabis businesses should be promptly
licensed, to providing patients with safe, convenient access to their medicine with undue

Issuing a limited number of licenses based on competitive scoring licensing tends to lead to
litigation, allegations of favoritism or bias, and delay. MPP encourages states to instead
license all qualified applicants, while enforcing sensible regulations, mirroring the approach
to regulating pharmacies. If a state imposes a numerical limit on businesses, a lottery of
qualified applicants — with adequate geographic distribution for retailers — allows more
rapid implementation vulnerability to litigation and controversy of than a scored system.

Law Patient ID Dispensary Sales
State Comments
Enacted Card Timing Began
Alaska Nov. 1998 About seven N/A — No medical Voters enacted an adult-
months after dispensaries use marijuana law in
passage — Nov. 2014 and regulated
applications were sales began less than
available in early two years later, in
June 1999. October 2016.
Arkansas Nov. 2016 Patients could Sales have not begun The cultivation licensing
apply starting in as of December 2018. process has been mired
July 2017, but Cultivation licenses in litigation, and has
cards will not be were issued in July slowed implementation.
issued until about 2018, and dispensary
one month prior licenses are expected
to the first sales. by the end of 2018.

1 In Delaware and Rhode Island, the delays were due in large part to concerning statements from those states’

U.S. attorneys. Those programs were then reworked before they were implemented. Since late 2014, Congress
has included a provision preventing the DOJ from interfering with state medical marijuana laws in every
appropriations bill.
Law Patient ID Dispensary Sales
State Comments
Enacted Card Timing Began
Arizona Nov. 2010 Applications A little over two An unsuccessful lawsuit
became available years after passage, by then-Gov. Jan Brewer
about 5 1/2 in Dec. 2012. delayed the
months after implementation of
passage, on April dispensaries. Regulators
14, 2011. published final rules on
March 28, 2011 and
dispensary certificates
were issued on Aug. 7,
California Nov. 1996; Prop. 215 did not Prop. 215 did not Collectives received
subsequent provide for ID provide for regulated legal protections — but
legislation in cards; voluntary sales. Dispensaries no licensing — in 2003.
2003 and cards were existed in a legal grey A state regulatory and
2015 available later. area until 2018. licensing law passed in
2015, and licenses were
first issued in 2018.
Voters enacted an adult-
use marijuana law in
Nov. 2016 and regulated
sales began around a
year and a month later,
on Jan. 1, 2018.
Colorado Nov. 2000; Patient Dispensaries existed The dispensary
June 2010: applications before there was a regulation bill began
dispensary available in under state law recognizing, phasing in within two
law seven months: licensing, and months of its passage,
June 1, 2001 regulating them. with the initial state
They smoothly form and fees due.
transitioned to a Dispensary regulations
licensed system were finalized and went
within a year of the into effect within one
2010 dispensary year of the law’s
law’s passage. passage. Also, voters
enacted an adult-use
marijuana law in Nov.
2012 and regulated
sales began around a
year and a month later,
on Jan. 1, 2014.
Connecticut May 2012 Temporary The first dispensaries The state began
patient ID cards opened about two accepting business
became available years and five applications in Sept.
within five months after the 2013, about 16 months
months of the law’s passage — in after the law’s passage.
law’s passage — Oct. 2014.
on Oct. 1, 2012.

Law Patient ID Dispensary Sales
State Comments
Enacted Card Timing Began
Delaware Passed May Patient About four years Then-Gov. Jack Markell
2011; applications were after enactment, on significantly delayed
effective July available 14 June 26, 2015 implementation in light
1, 2011 months after the of a concerning letter he
law’s passage — received from
on July 2, 2012 Delaware’s U.S. attorney.
Final regulations were
approved in Jan. 2014.
The first “compassion
center” was approved
on Aug. 11, 2014.
Florida Nov. 2016 A registry became Dispensary sales In 2017, the legislature
available on June began in September passed a legislative
29, 2016 for 2016, pursuant to framework for medical
patients under earlier — more cannabis. The health
earlier, more limited laws. department adopted
limited laws. (A regulations on July 3, 2-
2014 allowed 17 to implement it and
cancer, seizure, the constitutional
and MS patients amendment. Some of the
to use and obtain legislative provisions —
low-THC; a 2016 such as banning patients
law allowed from smoking or
terminally ill otherwise using raw
patients to use cannabis — have been
THC-rich challenged in court.
Hawaii June 2000; Less than seven About two years after Dispensaries were
dispensary months after the dispensary law licensed about nine
law signed passage: Dec. 28, passed, in early months after the
July 14, 2000 August 2017. dispensary law passed.
Illinois Aug. 1, 2013 Illinois first About two years and Patient and caregiver ID
accepted patient three months after card applications were
applications a enactment. The first first accepted 13 months
little over a year dispensaries opened after enactment. Medical
after passage — on Nov. 9, 2015. marijuana business
on Sept. 1, 2014 licenses were issued
and Nov. 1, 2014 about 18 months after
(depending on enactment.
last name).

Law Patient ID Dispensary Sales
State Comments
Enacted Card Timing Began
Maine Nov. 1999 ID cards were not The first dispensary Maine's initial law did
initiative; available (or opened less than 17 not have a patient
revised by needed) under months after the registry or regulated
voters in the 1999 law. law's passage — in dispensaries. Six
Nov. 2009 March 2011. dispensary registrations
and by the were issued in July 2010
legislature and two more were
in Spring issued in Aug. 2010. The
2010 and 2009 law was fully
Spring 2011 implemented within a
year of its passage, with
regulations enacted and
ID cards and dispensary
registrations issued.
Maryland April 14, The patient The first dispensary Maryland enacted a law
2014 registry opened sales began on in 2013 that would have
April 10, 2017, December 1, 2017, allowed academic
nearly three years three years and medical centers to
after the law seven months after dispense medical
passed. passage. marijuana. None
stepped forward, and
the law was revised in
2014. Maryland also has
an affirmative defense,
which can be used in
Mass. Nov. 2012 The state began About two years and Six months after
accepting patient seven months after Massachusetts’ law was
applications just passage. The first enacted, the state
under two years dispensary opened in drafted rules, which
after passage, in June 2015. followed listening
Oct. 2014. sessions throughout the
However, patients state. Within a year of
could initially use the law's passage, the
their doctors' health department had
written completed the first of
recommendations two phases of an
as ID cards. application process.
Following some
questions about the
process, the second
phase was completed in
June 2014. The first
dispensary opened a
year later.

Law Patient ID Dispensary Sales
State Comments
Enacted Card Timing Began
Michigan Nov. 2008; Patient Dispensaries Implementation of the
Dispensary applications transitioned from patient and caregiver ID
law Sept. became available lacking a state license card program took
2016 on April 4, 2009, and arguably being about five months. The
about five months illegal under state first dispensary licenses
after passage. law to having were issued in August
licenses in the last 2018, a little less than
half of 2018, about two years after the
two years after that dispensary law’s
law’s passage. passage.
Minnesota May 29, Patient The first dispensary The health department
2014 applications opened on July 1, issued a preliminary
became available 2015, about 13 draft of rules in Aug.
on June 1, 2015, months after 2014, less than three
just over a year passage. months after the law's
after passage. passage. A second draft
was issued on Sept. 5,
2014. On Sept. 5, 2014,
the health department
issued a request for
applications for
manufacturers. Letters
of intent were due by
Sept. 19. The
department registered
two manufacturers by
Dec. 1, 2014, about
seven months after
Missouri Nov. 2018 TBD — Not TBD — Not available
available as of as of Dec. 2018
Dec. 2018

Law Patient ID Dispensary Sales
State Comments
Enacted Card Timing Began
Montana Nov. 2004; Patient Dispensaries were Montana’s medical
dispensary applications not clearly allowed marijuana law initially
law Nov. became available under state law until allowed caregivers to
2016 on Dec. 14, 2004, voters approved an serve unlimited
just 41 days after initiative in Nov. numbers of patients
passage. 2016, but they without dispensary
existed before then. licensing. The legislature
While initiative dramatically limited the
language required law in 2011 in an effort
the licensing process to remove caregivers
to begin in the and the businesses they
summer of 2017, it operated from the
wasn't until April program. In November
2018 that some 2016, however, voters
businesses began approved an initiative
receiving licenses. As clearly allowing both
of December, the caregivers and
licensing process dispensaries. Since that
remains incomplete, time, the state has begun
although sales to transitioning to a more
patients have been regulated program,
ongoing throughout including licensed
the process. businesses, although the
process has seen
significant delays.
Nevada June 2001: Patient August 2015, two Dispensary rules were
patient applications years and two crafted 10 months after
registry became available months after the that law was enacted.
legislation; four months after dispensary law’s The health department
June 2013: passage — on Oct. enactment. issued preliminary
dispensary 1, 2001. certificates in Nov. 2014,
and less than a year and a
cultivation half after the dispensary
law bill became law. Voters
enacted an adult-use
marijuana law in Nov.
2016 and regulated
sales began about eight
months later, in July

Law Patient ID Dispensary Sales
State Comments
Enacted Card Timing Began
New July 23, Patient Two years and nine Patient and caregiver
Hampshire 2013 applications months after registry rules were
became available passage, on April 30, approved on June 25,
nearly 2.5 years 2016. 2014. However,
after passage pursuant to the opinion
after passage — of the state attorney
in Dec. 2015. general, the health
department did not
begin issuing ID cards
until a patient
successfully sued in Dec.
2015. Dispensary (ATC)
rules were provisionally
approved about 15
months after the law's
passage. Preliminary
dispensary registrations
were issued one year
and 11 months after the
law's passage.
New Jersey Jan. 2010 Patient Nearly three years Due to reticence by
applications after passage — Dec. then-Gov. Chris Christie,
became available 6, 2012. along with mixed signals
more than 2.5 from the federal
years after government at the time,
passage— Aug. 9, implementation was
2012. slow. Restrictive
regulations were issued
in Nov. 2010, but were
rejected by the
legislature. They were
revised, and six
"alternative treatment
center" (ATC) licenses
were preliminarily
issued in March 2011.
New Mexico April 2007 Patient The first sales began Although New Mexico
applications in New Mexico in was the first state to
became available Spring 2010, about license larger-scale
three months three years after cultivation and
after passage— passage. dispensing, its rules
July 6, 2007. were finalized and the
Initially first producer was
temporary ID licensed in less than two
certificates were years. The first producer
available. was registered in March

Law Patient ID Dispensary Sales
State Comments
Enacted Card Timing Began
New York July 5, 2014 Patient The first eight The Department of
applications dispensaries opened
Health issued
became available about 1.5 years after
regulations within nine
about a year and passage — on Jan. 7,
months of the law's
five months after 2016. enactment; in April
passage — in Dec. 2015. Applications for
2015. registered organizations
were due in June 2015,
11 months after the
law's enactment.
North Nov. 2016 About two years TBD — Sales have The legislature rewrote
Dakota after passage. The not begun as of the law in 2017. The
state began December 2018. health department
accepting patient granted preliminary
applications in approval to
late October manufacturers in May
2018. 2018. It granted the first
dispensary permits in
September 2018.
Ohio June 2016 Patient TBD —No dispensary
applications has received a
became available certificate of
about 1.5 years operation as of
after passage — December 2018
in Dec. 2018.
Oklahoma June 26, Patient Dispensary sales Emergency rules, which
2018 applications began within about were revised from an
became available there months of earlier draft, were
about two months passage, by late approved by the
after passage — September 2018. governor on August 6,
on August 25, 2018, 41 days after
2018. passage. The health
department began
accepting applications
from patients,
caregivers, and
prospective medical
cannabis businesses a
few weeks later — on
August 25, 2018.

Law Patient ID Dispensary Sales
State Comments
Enacted Card Timing Began
Oregon Nov. 1998; Patient Dispensaries already Implementation of
Aug. 2013: applications existed upon the patient and caregiver ID
dispensary became available passage of the state cards took just under six
law about six months law in 2013, but they months. The first
after passage — were not clearly dispensaries were
on May 1, 1999. authorized by law or licensed about seven
regulated. The first months after the
dispensary licenses dispensary law passed.
were issued in March Voters enacted an adult-
2014, about seven use marijuana law in
months after the Nov. 2014 and regulated
dispensary law sales began about two
passed. years later, in Oct. 2015.
Penn. April 17, Patient Medical cannabis The Pennsylvania
2016 applications sales began about Department of Health
became available one year and 10 accepted applications
about 1.5 years months after passage for dispensaries and
after passage — — on February 15, grower/processors
on Nov. 1, 2017 2018. beginning on January 20,
Also, minor 2017.
patients could
receive limited
protections via a
safe haven letter
beginning in June
Rhode Jan. 2006; Patient The first medical The health department
Island dispensaries applications cannabis sales were was expected to issue
authorized became available nearly four years compassion center
in June 2009 about three after the dispensary registrations in Sept.
months after law’s passage — on 2010. However, it
passage — on April 19, 2013. maintained that none of
March 31, 2006. the applicants qualified,
so it restarted the
application process.
After approving three
compassion centers on
March 15, 2011, then-
Gov. Lincoln Chafee
reversed course after
receiving a letter from
the U.S. attorney. The
law was revised, causing
further delay.
Utah Nov. 2018 TBD — Not TBD — Not available
available as of as of Dec. 2018
Dec. 2018

Law Patient ID Dispensary Sales
State Comments
Enacted Card Timing Began
Vermont May 2004; Patient The first dispensary
The Department of
dispensaries applications were opened in June Public Safety began
authorized available around 2013 — about two accepting dispensary
on June 2, five months after years after the applications 13 months
2011 passage — on Oct. dispensary law’s after the dispensary law
26, 2004. passage. passed — on June 4,
Washington Nov. 1998; ID cards are not The law does not Washington
further required in the include state implemented an adult-
legislation state of dispensary use marijuana law,
clarifying Washington, but a regulations, but which includes growers,
rules related voluntary registry adult-use stores have processors, and
to medical became available been able to have a retailers. The law passed
use was in July 2016. medical marijuana in Nov. 2012, and the
passed in Registered endorsement since first stores opened in
April 2015 patients will get July 2016. July 2014. Beginning in
special privileges, 2016, businesses could
including get a medical marijuana
increased endorsement, and
possession limits. patients were able to get
ID cards.
West April 2017 The state will not TBD — As of
Virginia begin issuing ID December 2018,
cards before July sales have not begun.
1, 2019.