Which States Allow for Legal Medical Weed Use Only?

Medically reviewed by Alexander Tabibi, MD
August 20, 2021
Legal Medical Weed in States
Legal Medical Weed in States

While more states are legalizing recreational marijuana use, a number of them around the country are holding out and, for the time-being, only permitting marijuana to be used by those who have been approved for medical purposes.  Medical marijuana remains a great program throughout the country which can be extremely valuable to anyone suffering from a condition that may be potentially managed with the properties of cannabis. 


States and territories that currently allow for medical marijuana, but not recreational marijuana are:

  • Alabama: Legal since 2021
  • Arkansas: Legal since 2016
  • Delaware*: Legal since 2011
  • Florida: Legal since 2016
  • Hawaii*: Legal since 2000
  • Louisiana: Legal since 2016
  • Maryland*: Legal since 2014
  • Minnesota*: Legal since 2014
  • Missouri*: Legal since 2018
  • New Hampshire*: Legal since 2013
  • North Dakota*: Legal since 2016
  • Ohio*: Legal since 2016
  • Oklahoma: Legal since 2018
  • Pennsylvania: Legal since 2016
  • Puerto Rico: Legal since 2015
  • Rhode Island*: Legal since 2006
  • South Dakota: Legal since 2020
  • Utah: Legal since 2018
  • West Virginia: Legal since 2017


States with a (*) have decriminalized cannabis by permitting possession of small amounts without the risk of criminal charges. 


Note: All states that permit recreational cannabis also have a medical marijuana program, and therefore the states listed above are not all of the states that do offer medical marijuana to residents.  What this means is that if you live in one of the above states, while you cannot purchase cannabis for recreational use, you can apply for a medical card as long as you are deemed to have one of the state’s qualifying health conditions.


Possession and Buying Amounts

Each state has a specific limit on how much a medical patient can purchase and possess at any given time.  Most states permit at least an ounce of cannabis in one’s possession, and usually more.  States may require that a patient purchases a specific amount for a certain length of time, such as a certain number of ounces per 60 days.  Just about every state allows medical patients to try cannabis flower, concentrates and infused products including edibles and topicals based on their unique medical needs.


Home Cultivation

Most states that have medical marijuana allow patients to grow their own cannabis at home, with strict limitations as to how many mature and immature plants they may grow on their property.


Medical Marijuana vs Recreational Marijuana

If you live in one of the above states, you may be wondering how the process of obtaining medical marijuana differs from obtaining recreational marijuana.  Recreational marijuana in states that have legalized it allows residents of a certain age to purchase cannabis for recreational purposes, meaning that they don’t need to prove that they have a medical condition in order to complete a transaction.  States with medical marijuana programs, on the other hand, do require that the patient is first approved by the state to make marijuana purchases.


Furthermore, most states that have fully legalized cannabis allow medical marijuana patients more leeway when it comes to taking cannabis.  For instance, most of them permit medical patients to possess higher amounts of cannabis at a time and grow higher volumes of plant as well.


Applying for Medical Marijuana

If you live in one of the above states and you desire legal access to marijuana, first you must apply.  Each state has a different application process, which can be accessed through the designated state department as determined by lawmakers.


The application process requires that you first have a certification from your doctor.  Every state has qualifying conditions printed on their department’s website, which tells you which conditions the state recognizes as being authorized for treatment with marijuana.  If you have a condition not printed on the list, you may be able to petition the state to get approval.


Your doctor will need to give a written statement verifying that you have a qualifying condition and that they believe marijuana is a good treatment for you.  You will need to provide this certification in your application form and submit it along with a photo ID, while also paying a fee if applicable per state.  You may request a caregiver if you’re unable to administer marijuana yourself, and may need to apply for cultivation rights if the state requires or allows it.  Once the state approves your request, you will be given a medical card that is valid at state-licensed dispensaries.


Purchasing Cannabis from an Out-of-State Dispensary

If you are authorized to purchase medical marijuana in your state, you are legally permitted to purchase it in other states when you are visiting, as long as you do not transport it across state lines.  However, some states do not allow out-of-state visitors to make medical marijuana purchases within their state lines, even with a medical card.  It’s always a good idea to look this information up ahead of time based on your destination, especially if you are someone who requires marijuana as part of your regular treatment for a condition.


Approved Doctors in States with Medical Marijuana

If you live in one of the states that permits a medical marijuana program, then it’s important that you check to make sure that your doctor is approved by the state to provide a certification as part of the application process.  While most states allow any primary care physician to sign a certification, some states require that you go with a doctor approved by the state to recommend marijuana.  Some states accept alternative forms of healthcare providers, including osteopaths and advanced nurse practitioners.


Which States Allow Medical Marijuana for Minors?

Not all states allow minors to apply for a medical marijuana card, but more and more states are recognizing that minors may have debilitating conditions for which marijuana can be quite therapeutic.  The process of signing up for medical marijuana as a minor requires that a parent or legal guardian is involved in the application process.  In most cases, the parent or guardian needs their own medical marijuana card in order to retrieve cannabis.


Changing Weed Laws Throughout the Country

The above information is the most up-to-date, but cannabis laws are changing constantly throughout the country, and many states listed above are currently seeking out full legalization.  Essentially, as a person interested in taking marijuana for medical or recreational purposes, it’s important to always check up on the latest changes in your state.