The laws of traveling with your stash between states are well-established (read: don’t do it!), but what’s the deal with using your state-specific medical card when you’re away from home? Given that cannabis legalization laws are determined locally (and often pose problems on the less-tolerant federal level), the use of your California, Alaska, or Maine MMJ card out-of-state might not even cross your mind.
But don’t dismiss the usefulness of that precious doctor rec off the bat! As I recently learned, a California medical marijuana card can be an asset even when traveling outside of the Golden State: though the number of states that accept out-of-state documentation is small as of writing, it’s expanding as marijuana laws become laxer over time.
Taking advantage of regional cannabis laws can be a great way to get a unique peek into local life. When I recently relocated temporarily from Los Angeles to Providence, Rhode Island, I was gutted to leave behind California’s fantastic, varied, and ever-expanding market of cannabis goodies. Luckily for me, my California medical marijuana recommendation afforded me the luxury of taking advantage of the state’s quickly developing local market. Rhode Island, which legalized medicinal use of cannabis in 2006 (that being said, lax MMJ laws don’t always translate to fair criminal justice: Rhode Island, for instance, has some of the country’s harshest minimum sentence laws, where 5 kg of marijuana gets you a minimum sentence of 20 years. Takeaway: don’t praise the progressiveness of local cannabis stances until legal reform is taken as seriously as the potential economic benefits of marijuana #endprohibition). Multiple forms of ID and my doctor’s letter in hand meant I was good-to-go, and visiting a medical dispensary turned out to be a totally different experience than those I’d grown accustomed to in LA. Strict regulations about what sort of ailments qualified one for cannabis consumption meant that the patients I encountered were treating chronic conditions beyond the stoner-with-headache trope that (often rightfully) gets associated with those who hold MMJ cards in Cali, and Rhode Island’s largely working-class patient body meant that products were often simple, to-the-point, no-frills, and relatively affordable (but potent nonetheless!).
The rules of each state vary, and whether or not your out-of-state rec will be accepted is often at the discretion of the dispensary. Generally, however, the legality of your out-of-state recommendation will fall into one of a few categories:
States that recognize the legality of your medicine but won’t allow you to visit local dispensaries
Taking a trip to Arizona or New Hampshire? Great news: if you’ve got an out-of-state MMJ card, you won’t have to worry about having your meds confiscated by local authorities. That said, your medical card won’t afford you a trip to the local dispensary, which only accepts in-state recommendations.
States that allow nonresident patients to purchase limited quantities
In the case of locales like Arkansas, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, non-residents are capped at the quantities of meds they can purchase. The amount you’ll be able to buy varies by state, so make sure to check the cap if you’re hoping to splurge.
As far as these locations are concerned, not all MMJ cards are created equal. Take DC, for example, which will accept certain recommendations as valid while turning down others. Takeaway: make sure to check the specific regulations of the state or district to which you’re headed before assuming you’ll be able to purchase local meds.
States that have legalized recreational adult consumption
Feel free to leave your medical card at home if you’re visiting Alaska, Colorado, Maine, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Massachusetts, or California (and soon, you can add Michigan to that list). That being said, some states offer tax breaks for medical patients, so if you’re hoping to curb those steep recreational prices, check out the specific laws of the state you’ll be visiting.