The thought of having legal marijuana within our reach was probably unimaginable as recently as 30 years ago. As of January 2023, 39 out of 50 U.S. states (plus Washington D.C.) had legalized medical marijuana, with 21 of them having legalized recreational marijuana.
When it comes to medical marijuana, California was the pioneer in legalizing its medical use in 1996. Subsequently, since 2012, a number of states have legalized the recreational use of marijuana, including California in 2016. In November 2022, Maryland and Missouri became the latest two states to legalize recreational marijuana.
The increase in the number of states legalizing marijuana has seen a spike in the number of people obtaining medical marijuana cards. While these cards are crucial for cannabis patients since you cannot obtain any for medical use without one, there have been questions around their validity across state lines.
What is a medical marijuana card?
This state-issued identification card allows patients with a medical recommendation to possess, obtain, or cultivate marijuana for medical use. The card gives this provision despite the lack of normal Food and Drug Administration testing for efficiency and safety. Medical marijuana cards are issued by the county or state where medical marijuana is legal and recognized.
Naturally, you cannot get this card from a state that hasn’t legalized medical or recreational marijuana. To obtain a medical marijuana card, you must pay a fee to the state government. The fee varies from one state to another, depending on the requirements.
How to obtain a medical marijuana card?
The process of obtaining a medical marijuana card (MMC), which is sometimes referred to as medical marijuana identification, involves the following steps:
The first thing you need to do is talk to your doctor or primary care physician. The doctor will examine you and determine whether your illness requires the use of medical marijuana. The doctor will also discuss with you the possible side effects and risks of using medical marijuana. After the doctor approves the use of medical marijuana, you can proceed to the next step of getting the card.
Even though the application process varies from one state to another, most states require you to sign up for their medical marijuana registry, a process that can be completed online. As part of the registration process, you must prove that your doctor approved medical marijuana as part of your treatment plan. Without doing so, your application will be rejected. The evidence needs to be well-documented.
In the last stages of your registration, the state may ask you to create an online account where you can submit your application. You must attach the doctor’s approval to your application. You are required to create an account because it saves your details in case you need to renew your medical marijuana card in the future.
Those applying for medical marijuana cards with a caregiver should ask the caregiver to provide their credentials. This ensures that the caregiver also meets the requirements for the medical marijuana card.
Lastly, you will pay a fee to the state government for the medical marijuana card. As mentioned earlier, the price varies from state to state. However, most payments are made online as the process is highly digitized. It takes a few days for your request to be processed and your card issued. Once you get your card, you can start buying medical marijuana in your state.
Medical marijuana reciprocity agreements
But what if you want to purchase medical marijuana in another state? In certain states, laws around medical marijuana reciprocity agreements permit a patient with a valid medical marijuana card in one state to use, purchase, or possess medical cannabis in another state. Such laws make it easy for cardholders to use medical marijuana across several states.
Generally, reciprocity for medicinal marijuana refers to the ability of a medical marijuana patient with a doctor’s recommendation and medical marijuana card in the state to buy marijuana from a legal and licensed medical marijuana facility in a different state. For example, if you have an MMC in Arizona, you can purchase medical marijuana in Colorado.
Not all states allow reciprocity, and knowing those that do allow it is helpful. This makes it easy for medical marijuana patients to plan their next move. Some states only offer a version of reciprocity, meaning you can use the card only under certain conditions.
States that accept medical marijuana cards from other states
Below is a list of states where medical marijuana cards from other states are recognized as valid, at least under certain circumstances. Some of these states have reciprocity agreements that apply selectively, while others may leave it to the dispensary to decide.
As such, it is important to look into the rules around your specific circumstances. However, in these states, it is at least theoretically possible to use a medical marijuana card from out-of-state:
● District of Columbia
● New Jersey
● New Hampshire
● New Mexico
● North Dakota
● New York
● Rhode Island
● Washington, D.C.
● West Virginia
Over the past several years, great strides have been made in the legalization of marijuana in the United States. More and more states are adopting laws that allow for the medical and/or recreational use of marijuana, and there is a growing recognition of the potential benefits of cannabis for a variety of health conditions.
However, it is important to note that marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, and there are still many obstacles to overcome in terms of regulation, taxation, and access to marijuana for those who may benefit from it.
For more content on issues related to the legal status of marijuana, be sure to check out our End the Drug War video playlist by clicking on the button below.
This piece solely expresses the opinion of the author and not necessarily the organization as a whole. Students For Liberty is committed to facilitating a broad dialogue for liberty, representing a variety of opinions.