Ask Our Experts 10/07/2018


Q: Which states and/or U.S. territories have legalized medical cannabis in 2018?


Thus far this year, Oklahoma and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (a U.S. protectorate consisting of 15 islands in the northwestern Pacific Ocean) have been the only U.S. state or territory, respectively, to legalize cannabis in 2018.


When voters approved State Question 788 on June 26, Oklahoma became the 31st state to legalize medical cannabis. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin signed the emergency rules for State Question 788 on August 6, opening a path for regulating and licensing the state’s medical cannabis program. Since then, the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA) has accepted and issued grower, processor, dispensary, and transportation business applications along with patient applications. On September 24, the OMMA announced it had received 5,724 patient, 45 caregiver, and 1,619 business applications, for a total of 7,388 applications to participate in Oklahoma’s medical cannabis industry. Individual license approvals were granted to 3,786 patients (66% of applicants) and 27 caregivers (60%). Business licenses were granted to 377 dispensaries, 593 growers, and 165 processors (amounting to 70% of all the business applicants). The total number of approved licenses was 4,948 (67% of all applications).


The Northern Mariana Islands fully legalized cannabis for adult and medical use last month. Under the new regulations, adult users may legally possess up to one ounce of cannabis, and self-cultivation of a few plants is permitted. Previously, cannabis was not legal in the islands, even for medical use. The move also marks the first legislatively enacted cannabis legalization in the U.S.


Going into this autumn’s midterm elections, Michigan and North Dakota voters will consider legalizing adult use of cannabis, while Missouri and Utah voters will cast their ballots about medical use. Meanwhile, gubernatorial races in six states may shift those closer to adopting adult-use programs as Democratic candidates in each New York, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Connecticut, and New Hampshire favor legalization, while their Republican opponents oppose it.

Were all four states facing referendums to approve legalization, cannabis would become legal for adult use in 11 states and the District of Columbia, and legal for medical use in 33 states and D.C. Conversely, a national average of one in four Americans would live where adult use would be allowed, and two in three would live where medical cannabis is available.

For more consideration and analysis by New Frontier Data of pending potential markets and other pressing trends in the U.S. markets, see The U.S. Cannabis Report: 2018 Industry Outlook now available here.