The marijuana sector is rapidly evolving. Although the drug is still illegal at the federal level, 16 states and Washington, D.C. have approved the drug for adult-use, and over 30 states have approved the drug for medical use. The Horizons Marijuana Life Sciences ETF (HMLSF 2.52%) has run up over 100% over the past 12 months. This has left pot stock pickers on the edge of their seats, itching to get in on what's all but guaranteed to be stellar growth in the industry.
Many state governments now have to decide exactly how to legalize the drug, asking questions including: For whom is marijuana use legal, and for what use? Dr. Chanda Macias, a medical cannabis advocate, researcher, and dispensary owner, joined Olivia Zitkus and Corinne Cardina on a March 19 episode of Fool Live to talk about how we should approach legalization, and makes an argument for governments to focus on its medicinal properties as they consider permitting cannabis use.
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Olivia Zitkus: My next question has to do with comparing the medical market for cannabis to the recreational market and the differences between those two. What do you think cannabis investors, especially new cannabis investors should know about the differences between the medical market and the recreational market?
Dr. Chanda Macias: Olivia, what's very interesting about this, and this is my philosophy and a lot of people support me in this narrative which is, medical cannabis is medicine. Whether it is in a medical state or a recreational, and let me correct that, it's called an adult-use environment, recreational to me, there's no such thing, all of it is medical. When I think about that and the differences in the programs, what comes to mind again is the patient. In the medical program, the patient has HIPAA, which means they have protections on using the medication under the guidance of their physicians, and their physicians have given them permission. So if it's decriminalized or criminalized in that area, they have state protections working with their physicians. Now, in an adult-use market, they are not required to have a medical physician to actually recommend the medicine to them. They're taking it on without those protections, but they might not want to share those, that information about who they are and what their element and condition they're treating for different reasons, and they're with their physician. For example, if you live in Washington D.C. and you work for the federal government, you might not want that public record. Again, I go back to looking at the different programs from a healthcare perspective, about what's best for the patient. Some patients really need that guidance with their physicians and some of them can't have that guidance with their physician. But either way, cannabis is definitely classified as medicine.