“Can I use my medical marijuana card in other states?” is probably the most common cannabis travel question I get from students of my online cannabis courses and visitors to my website and YouTube channel. I wish the answer was as simple as yes or no. But, sadly, like many issues surrounding marijuana, the answer is far more complicated than that.
That’s because the headlines about marijuana “legalization” are extremely misleading. In reality, neither medical nor recreational marijuana has been legalized at all. It has been regulated. And HEAVILY regulated, at that.
Each state has its own set of rules and regulations, not to mention taxes and fees, surrounding both medical and recreational marijuana. To make things even more complicated, cannabis remains completely illegal at the federal level.
That’s a lot for RVing medical marijuana patients who depend on cannabis as medicine to navigate.
Medical marijuana reciprocity
When it comes to whether one state’s medical marijuana card is valid in another, it varies from state to state. And it doesn’t vary a little bit, it varies A LOT.
Some states do offer what is known as “medical marijuana reciprocity,” meaning they will honor another’s medical marijuana program. But even then there are often conditions and strings attached.
For instance, medical marijuana patients visiting Maine can legally use cannabis for the first month that they are there. After that, they are required to register with the state. If you want to access Maine’s dispensaries in order to purchase medical marijuana, you’ll need to register with the state either way.
That’s a common theme among a lot of the states that do have medical marijuana reciprocity. You are allowed to bring your own medical cannabis, but not allowed to buy it in state dispensaries which are restricted to residents only. Go figure.
Last I checked, 12 states offer some form of medical marijuana reciprocity. But the cannabis industry is in its infancy and laws are evolving all the time. Likewise, instead of listing the states here, it’s best to check where you plan to visit before you go.
Americans for Safe Access, a medical marijuana patients’ advocacy group, has prepared a Medical Marijuana Patients Travel Guide that can keep you abreast of changes in medical marijuana reciprocity laws.
More medical marijuana road trip worries
Reciprocity or not, it’s important to note that if you travel to a state where medical marijuana is not legal, your state medical marijuana card will do nothing to help you from a legal perspective.
On a road trip, you need to especially worry about the states you will be crossing through. In some states, it will be completely illegal to have or be transporting cannabis at all.
Sadly, the internet is filled with horror stories of traveling medical marijuana patients getting into big trouble while passing through illegal states. In fact, police in some states that border legal states (I am looking at you, Kansas and Utah), have been reported to target out-of-state vehicles leaving Colorado looking for marijuana.
That’s because a lot of law enforcement agencies get a lot of “drug war” funding from the federal government and cannabis users are low-hanging fruit who normally don’t fight back.
Furthermore, when you consider that all marijuana is federally illegal, crossing state lines with it is always technically illegal.
I have had people argue this point with me, insisting their state has complete reciprocity with another neighboring legal state and it is perfectly OK and legal for them to be driving with it between the two. These naïve folks are wrong.
There is no federal exemption that says you can travel from one state to another with marijuana. I checked with several prominent cannabis attorneys and they all concur.
Now, that’s not to say that the feds are actually out there on the highways busting road-tripping medical marijuana patients. Thankfully, I have not heard of that in years. State and local law enforcement agencies, yes, that unfortunately still happens. Feds no. But they legally could. And this article is meant to inform you about the law, not pass judgment on its absurdities.
If there’s interest in the topic, we’ll do follow-up articles on your rights as a traveling cannabis consumer, as well as how to keep your cannabis use private and discreet when on the road. Leave your thoughts in the comments below, please.