It is every patient’s worst nightmare: running out of a much-needed prescription in the middle of a vacation. In most cases, medication is non-negotiable; patients need certain treatments to maintain their health and well-being, and that is equally true at home and while traveling. Fortunately, most patients can pack their pills into their suitcase or visit a local pharmacy if they need a last-minute prescription refill.
However, for patients using medical marijuana, access to their life-saving drug isn’t guaranteed. Because the Federal Government restricts the transportation of cannabis across state lines, most MMJ patients must make a difficult decision amongst several inconvenient options: breaking federal law by bringing cannabis products on vacation, foregoing cannabis treatments during their trip or choosing not to travel at all.
Luckily, there is another option that many MMJ patients might not know much about: reciprocity. Some states allow patients registered elsewhere to take advantage of their medical marijuana dispensaries, meaning patients can travel legally and enjoy the regular treatment, too. Here are the states that have reciprocity laws in place, making them ideal vacation destinations for MMJ patients.
Arizona offers reciprocity with one caveat: Visiting patients must match their qualifying condition in their home state with the same qualifying condition in Arizona. In effect, this means that patients are only allowed to visit Arizona medical marijuana dispensaries if they suffer from a condition that Arizona’s program deems treatable with cannabis.
Arkansas makes it exceedingly easy for visitors to use their home state MMJ cards to enter medical dispensaries and make purchases — likely because their next-door neighbor Texas has an aggressively prohibitive medical marijuana program, and Arkansas caters to so many Texan patients. Visitors only need to fill out a visiting patient form and provide proof of out-of-state MMJ registration to be granted reciprocity.
Technically, California doesn’t have a reciprocity program — but it does allow out-of-state visitors to apply for a California medical marijuana identification card (MMIC) just like residents. The process for getting an MMIC is the same for out-of-staters as it is for residents, so it usually isn’t worthwhile unless patients will be remaining in California for an extended period of time.
Hawaii has a similar workaround for reciprocity as California: Visitors can apply to Hawaii’s medical marijuana program. Those with serious health conditions, like terminal cancer, are fast-tracked, which makes it a bit more sensible for some visitors to use this service during their trip.
Maine requires out-of-state MMJ cardholders to register with the Maine MMJ program upon entering the state. Visitors who do gain access to a temporary registration that allows them to make purchases from Maine’s medical dispensaries.
Interestingly, Michigan law gives dispensaries the option to choose whether they will accept out-of-state MMJ cards or not. Most medical dispensaries do, to take advantage of a larger consumer base, so it is safe to say that Michigan has reciprocity.
Missouri’s medical marijuana program explicitly states that it does not offer reciprocity to out-of-state MMJ patients — but that contradicts Missouri’s own law, which reads “Production of the respective equivalent identification card or authorization issued by another state or political subdivision of another state shall also meet the requirements of this subdivision.” It is unclear why the state is ordering dispensaries to reject visitors’ home-state MMJ cards if the law is so clearly in favor of reciprocity, and it is unclear whether the practice or the law will change.
Montana’s procedure for reciprocity is among the most straightforward: Visitors need only supply their valid out-of-state MMJ card and their state identification card to budtenders at dispensaries to make legal purchases.
Because Nevada receives so much domestic tourism, the state’s dispensaries readily accept all other states’ MMJ cards — no questions asked.
New Jersey considers that out-of-state MMJ patients are essentially qualifying patients within the state of New Jersey — but only for six months. Visitors who stay longer than that must apply for a New Jersey MMJ card, which they are permitted to do.
As in Arkansas, visitors to Oklahoma interested in using out-of-state MMJ cards must first fill out a Temporary Patient Application before making purchases from a dispensary. Again, this easy process is likely thanks to the large numbers of Texans making the trek for better medical cannabis options.
Though Pennsylvania doesn’t technically offer reciprocity to adults, the law is a little shakier when it comes to minors. Visitors under 18 years of age with MMJ access out of state can have their parent or guardian make dispensary purchases lawfully — though it is unclear whether dispensaries know or respect this law.
Utah allows visiting MMJ patients to access dispensaries if they suffer from a condition that Utah recognizes in its qualification list — just like Arizona. Utah also allows cardholding visitors to carry medical marijuana from out of state, as long as they haven’t been in Utah for longer than 45 days. Visitors who have extended stays must become residents and apply to Utah’s MMJ program.
Though not technically a state, the capital of the country does recognize all other states’ MMJ cards. In fact, having an MMJ card is the only way to visit a D.C. dispensary because their recreational laws do not allow for cannabis retail stores.
No longer do MMJ patients need to fear travel — as long as they travel to any of the above states (or district). As cannabis regulations improve around the country, reciprocity should spread, and medical weed should become even more readily available to those in need.