Legalization 101

Normalizing Cannabis in Medical & Adult Use States + Election Prep!

Episode 161

Show Notes

Where is Cannabis Legal?

Next week is Election Day in the U.S., and cannabis is on the ballot! We know how hard it can be to keep up with the always-evolving cannabis industry, so we’re here to help you feel prepared and empowered when you enter the voting booth on November 8th. If you live in North Dakota, South Dakota, Arkansas, Missouri or Maryland, where adult-use cannabis is on the ballot, this episode is especially relevant for you. So before you cast your vote, be sure to tune in to hear everything you need to know about medical versus adult-use cannabis markets. By participating in this election, you have a real opportunity to continue to normalize cannabis, so we really hope you make it out to the polls!

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Ellen Scanlon (00:00):

This podcast discusses cannabis and is intended for audiences 21 and over.

Stacy Zeal (00:06):

When I moved to Las Vegas, Las Vegas was medical state only. But when I moved there, I wasn’t consuming cannabis. Around the time that I had my whole awakening of falling asleep driving and realizing I needed to take my insomnia seriously and finally turning to weed, recreational had just became legal. That was my first experience is being in a recreational market where you could go into the dispensary as long as you were over 21. I started in the cannabis culture that was very loud and proud and out there, and it was in Las Vegas. We do everything out there. And then I moved back home and now I’m in a medical state. I’m in Maryland. Maryland is a medical state only. It’s very different. Very different.

Ellen Scanlon (00:53):

Welcome to How to Do the Pot, a podcast demystifying cannabis for women. I’m Ellen Scanlon. You just heard from Stacy Zeal, a fractional chief marketing officer for black owned e-commerce brands, talking about her experience buying cannabis in two very different places, Las Vegas, an adult use market that’s loud and proud, versus her home state of Maryland, currently a medical only market where buying cannabis is much more restrictive. But what does that mean exactly? Today’s episode is specially timed to help you feel prepared for the November elections.


I hope that wherever you live, you’re registered to vote, and this election especially matters if you care about the future of cannabis legalization in the US. On October 6th, 2022, President Biden announced a pardon of all prior federal offenses of simple possession of what they called marijuana. This is a big deal because the collateral consequences of that federal offense can keep you from accessing jobs, housing, student loans, and many other opportunities. There are about 6,500 people who will be affected by this decision. We talked a lot about this in episode five of How to Do the Pot. It’s called the Social Justice episode, and I’ll link to it in the show notes.


Biden also encouraged state governors to do the same for state level offenses, which is actually where the bulk of people are in prison and have criminal records. I do not believe that anyone should be in prison for possessing weed, and the federal government now agrees with that, which is truly something to celebrate. Black and white people consume cannabis at the same rates, and black people are four times more likely to be arrested. Hopefully this is a big step toward righting that wrong. The next piece of what Biden said is that he is exploring descheduling cannabis.


Currently, the federal government classifies cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug, a classification that is meant for the most dangerous substances like heroin. Cannabis is currently considered more dangerous than fentanyl and methamphetamines, the drugs that are driving the overdose epidemic. The reason that even talking about descheduling is very exciting is because if cannabis is removed from its Schedule 1 status, it will be more eligible for research and real studies into the plant at the federal level and with federal funding. This research is something that the cannabis industry really wants so that we can understand the plant better and learn how to help more people with its medical benefits.


The most exciting part to me about Biden’s announcement is that this was framed as the first step, and the federal government has never before been open to that first step. Of course, now we wait and see what will happen in terms of timing, but I do want to stop and celebrate this milestone. Onto what is happening at the state level. On this November 8th, cannabis is on the ballot in five states for adult use or recreational cannabis, which means it will be legal for anyone over 21. These states are North Dakota and South Dakota, Arkansas, Maryland, and Missouri. All of these states already allow legal medical cannabis.


I’ll link to an article with all of the details of each of the ballot measures so you can check it out if you live in one of these states. And please share this episode with any friends or family you have in those states. In the 2020 election, every state with cannabis on the ballot passed and it created a lot of momentum for the plant and for the industry. This election is a real opportunity to continue to normalize cannabis for health, well-being, and for fun, and I hope you will exercise your rights and register and get ready to vote on November 8th, 2022. Stay tuned next week for my thoughts on what is driving legalization in 2022. Spoiler, it’s jobs and tax revenue.


For the next few episodes, we’ll be talking about all the differences between medical and adult use, which is also called recreational, cannabis markets, which are the two types of legal weed markets being implemented across the US on a state by state basis. The difference between these two types of markets is really huge and important to understand because as we’ll see, it affects everything about cannabis, from how it’s grown and distributed to how it’s packaged, sold, and consumed in each state that votes to legalize. The first thing to know, and this may seem obvious, is that these markets are called medical and adult use for a simple reason.


In a medical market, it’s assumed that consumption is for treating medical related symptoms. And in an adult use market, it’s assumed that consumption is simply to enjoy the effects, much like adults consuming alcohol, for instance. These two types of legal cannabis markets are named and designed based on the assumed uses that cannabis consumers are purchasing the products for. But as with most things in cannabis, it’s a lot more complicated than that. Back to Stacy, who you heard at the beginning of the show. Stacy started consuming cannabis for a medical reason to treat her insomnia while she was living in Nevada, a state that has a legalized adult use market.


This means all she had to do to purchase weed was go to a dispensary with her government issued ID that showed she was over 21. But then during the pandemic, Stacey moved home to Maryland, a medical only market where things were really different.

Stacy Zeal (07:43):

I couldn’t go to a dispensary for a few months because I needed to get my residency in Maryland in order to apply for medical card, and applying for residency takes having a lease and this and all these kind of things. That was during the pandemic, so the offices were limited in appointments and all that kind of stuff. And then also here it is more expensive. It is definitely more expensive because there aren’t a whole lot of customers, there aren’t as many dispensaries, there aren’t as many growers when you have on a recreational market.

Ellen Scanlon (08:14):

For Stacy, the medical only market in Maryland is more of a hassle and more expensive than the adult use market she left behind in Las Vegas. As it stands today, Maryland is one of 38 states that currently have a medical only market like this where the sale and possession of cannabis is legal only if it’s been prescribed by an accredited physician to treat a medical purpose like migraines or epilepsy. Medical growers and retail shops operate under regulations, which is good for ensuring the purity of the product, but these regulations can make it harder to start and run a cannabis business, which can limit options for consumers and drive up the price like what Stacy experienced.


Currently, there are 19 states like Nevada that have legalized adult use cannabis. Regulations are different in these states, which theoretically makes it easier for growers and retailers to get into the cannabis business. I’ll simplify a very rich topic for today and say it’s usually harder for women and people of color to find success in the cannabis industry. And then don’t forget that because cannabis is federally illegal, no cannabis businesses have access to banking. You heard me correctly. They cannot get a bank loan and generally have to find investors to fund their businesses.


But still in adult use states, there’s more competition which can benefit consumers by increasing availability and bringing down prices. Stay with me here. There is some overlap between these two kinds of markets. A handful of states have legalized both medical and adult use markets, which means there are different regulations based on the intended end use of the cannabis. There are also states where cannabis is not legal at all, but it has been decriminalized, which basically means if you’re caught with weed, you won’t face criminal charges anymore, but you will have to pay a fine, kind of like a speeding ticket.


All of this to say, based on the type of cannabis market that’s been allowed in your state, medical, adult use, both, neither, your elected officials will have the power to determine nearly everything about what is allowed where you live, from the way it’s grown, packaged, and distributed to who gets to consume it, how it gets consumed and why. And even beyond the state level, local officials also have a lot of power when it comes to determining the way cannabis comes into your community.


For example, in California where adult use has been legal at the state level since 2016, still nearly 70% of cities and towns don’t allow cannabis retail stores. In these cities and counties that don’t allow cannabis, delivery is actually starting to be the workaround, and there’s a fair amount of controversy about that too. With so many podcasts to choose from, finding a favorite series can take some trial and error. We started How to Do the Pot’s Podcast Club because, well, we love podcasts. And when we find a good one, we want you to enjoy it as well. If you’d like to put a podcast on our radar, whether it’s about weed or not, please reach out at or you can DM us at @DothePot.


Vanishing Postcards is a podcast that invites listeners on a road trip, exploring the hidden dives and histories found by exiting the interstates. Named one of the best podcasts you should listen to in 2022 by Digital Trends, its latest season finds host Evan Stern motoring West Cross Country on Route 66. From Tulsa’s Greenwood District to Santa Monica’s beaches, the series showcases much of Steinbeck’s “Mother Road” while exploring how its past, present, and future are revealed through the people and places found driving it today.


Featuring stories collected over 6,845 miles worth of asphalt, it’s an immersive listen, perfect for when you need a breather, but don’t have the luxury of hitting the open road. You can join this ride by following Vanishing Postcards wherever you get your podcasts. Hopefully by now, it’s clear that the type of cannabis market lawmakers choose to implement in your state is crucially important. But why do these drastic distinctions between medical and adult use states exist in the first place? It’s all about who is allowed to consume cannabis and why. But I want to offer a question for you to consider, is there really a difference between medical use and adult use when it comes to cannabis?


For lawmakers and for many Americans, the answer may seem like common sense. Of course, there’s a difference between medical and adult use cannabis. Medical consumers are treating symptoms of serious conditions like cancer, HIV, Parkinson’s, epilepsy, while on the other hand, adult or many people call it recreational use, is considered to be a want, not a need. And in some American’s minds, a destructive one. You all know that I think about weed all the time, so you don’t have to. I realize the cliche stoner stereotype that’s been around for decades is still alive and well for many.


I want to offer another angle, and we share the stories of amazing women who really just might convince you that those stereotypes are pretty out of touch. Stories from women like Ariana Newton, the Montana based business relations and operations executive of

Ariana Newton (14:40):

It was really cool for me when I did start to consume and realized that it was helping me along this healing journey of personal growth, but also physically too as a woman being able to kind of combat some of those aches and pains that you just go through.

Ellen Scanlon (14:57):

Maryland based, Stacy Zeal.

Stacy Zeal (15:00):

I look at it more so like it’s an essential tool in my toolkit.

Ellen Scanlon (15:04):

And California based Kelsey Ledezma, who is full-time in a wheelchair and consumes cannabis to mediate nerve damage caused by cancer treatment when she was a child.

Kelsey Ledezma (15:15):

Just knowing that there was this information out there, it was a lot to kind of put into your head and think, “Wow! There is really a science behind this. It’s not just happenstance that it happens to help me.”

Ellen Scanlon (15:27):

It’s complicated and changing very quickly, but I’m here to break it down and help you find your way to whatever relationship with cannabis feels right for you. Because in the end, what we at How to Do the Pot have come to believe, as you may have guessed, is that all cannabis is medical cannabis. Stay tuned for next week’s episode, which I hope will help you feel inspired and ready to vote. And remember, if you or your friends or family live in Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota, or South Dakota, please let them know that cannabis is on the ballot. For lots more information and past episodes, visit, and that’s also where you can sign up for our newsletter.


For sneak peeks behind the scenes, please follow us on socials at @dothepot. If you like How to Do the Pot, please rate and review us on Apple Podcasts. It really helps more people find the show. Thanks to our producers, Madi Fair and Nick Patri and our writer, Anna Williams. I’m Ellen Scanlon, and we’ll be back soon with more of How to Do the Pot.



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