Policy & Research


Medical Marijuana: Policy Considerations (April 2019)

Kansas Among Four States With No Established Program

By Charles Hunt, M.P.H., Tatiana Y. Lin, M.A., Carlie J. Houchen, M.P.H., Steve Corbett, Ph.D., Madison Hoover, M.S. | April 01, 2019

Medical Marijuana: Policy Considerations (April 2019)


Thirty-four states have legalized marijuana for a broad range of medical purposes. Ten of those states also have legalized recreational use for adults, thereby creating conflicts between state and federal laws in an environment of evolving research regarding therapeutic benefits of medical marijuana and risks to public health. Twelve states have limited medical marijuana use laws. This issue brief provides an update to a comprehensive Health Impact Assessment on medical marijuana published by the Kansas Health Institute in 2015.

Key points from the brief include:

  • Only four states, including Kansas, do not permit some form of medical marijuana use.
  • In 2018, the Kansas Legislature excluded cannabidiol (CBD) from the state definition of marijuana, allowing the legal retail sale of CBD products. 
  • The strongest evidence of effectiveness of marijuana or its compounds exists for treating chemotherapy-induced nausea, chronic pain and patient-reported spasticity symptoms associated with multiple sclerosis.
  • Among children, rates of marijuana exposures reported to poison control centers in the U.S. have increased significantly in states that have enacted medical marijuana laws.
  • Study results are mixed concerning whether medical marijuana legalization leads to an increase in traffic accidents and fatalities.
  • More research also is needed to determine whether medical marijuana legalization leads to decreased prescription opioid overdose deaths.

*List of reference materials used in this analysis.

The Kansas Health Institute supports effective policymaking through nonpartisan research, education and engagement. KHI believes evidence-based information, objective analysis and civil dialogue enable policy leaders to be champions for a healthier Kansas. Established in 1995 with a multiyear grant from the Kansas Health Foundation, KHI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan educational organization based in Topeka.