Medical Marijuana and Reciprocity Between States

Most states don't recognize medical marijuana cards from other jurisdictions.

By , Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated March 07, 2023

Medical marijuana is now legal in more than half of the United States, allowing thousands of eligible patients to access medical cannabis in their state of residence. Accessing medical marijuana as a non-resident, though, can be difficult, if not impossible. Most states' medical marijuana programs are only open to residents, and only a dozen or so states recognize out-of-state medical marijuana cards.

This article will provide an overview of medical marijuana reciprocity between states and how it works (or doesn't).

Medical Marijuana States

State medical marijuana programs differ greatly, but most have similar registration requirements for patients seeking access to medical marijuana. Typically, to obtain a medical marijuana card, a patient must be a resident of the state, have a qualifying condition, obtain physician approval, pay a fee, and register with the state.

Patients with valid medical marijuana cards can purchase from in-state dispensaries and use marijuana legally under state law. Most states have daily or monthly possession and purchase limits.

Can I Use My Medical Marijuana Card in Another State?

Maybe. Some states (around a dozen or so) offer reciprocity for visiting patients with an out-of-state medical marijuana card—most don't though.

Reciprocity refers to a state's recognition of privileges granted by another state. For medical marijuana, this means that a medical marijuana state recognizes the validity of an out-of-state medical marijuana program. If offered, a state might extend full or partial reciprocity. Below are some examples.

Full reciprocity (mostly). Some states grant out-of-state patients the same privileges as resident patients, including the ability to purchase and possess medical marijuana with a valid medical marijuana card from their home state. However, these states often set different purchasing and possession limits for non-residents. Maine, for instance, allows out-of-state patients from over two dozen jurisdictions to possess and purchase medical marijuana if they have a valid medical marijuana patient card and their state ID. But stricter possession and purchasing limits apply to non-residents. (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 22, § 2423-D (2022).)

Qualifying condition requirement. A few states grant out-of-state patients with valid medical marijuana cards the same or similar privileges but only so long as their qualifying condition is recognized by both states. For example, New Hampshire extends reciprocity to out-of-state patients with a valid patient ID but only if their qualifying condition is recognized by New Hampshire law. (N.H. Rev. Stat. § 126-X:2 (2022).)

Possession only. Some states recognize an out-of-state card only for purposes of possession (not purchasing). For example, Arizona allows visitors to possess medical marijuana in the state with a valid patient card but they cannot purchase from a dispensary. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 36-2804.03 (2022).) (This situation is problematic for visitors because it's illegal under federal law to travel with marijuana from one state to the next—even between legal states. More on this below.)

Can You Get a Medical Marijuana Card in Another State?

Many states limit their medical marijuana programs to only residents. A few states allow visiting patients to apply for a temporary medical marijuana card. Hawaii, for instance, allows non-resident patients to apply for a 60-day medical marijuana card (called a "329 card"). The visiting patient must register with the Department of Health, submit their ID and home-state medical marijuana card, and pay a fee. (Haw. Rev. Stat. § 329-123.5 (2022).) Arkansas and Oklahoma have similar application processes for temporary patient cards. (Okla. Stat. tit. 63, § 420 (2022).)

Can I Bring My Medical Marijuana to Another State?

Legally speaking, no. Under federal law, all marijuana, including marijuana used for medical reasons, is illegal—whether you're traveling across state lines or not. It's rare for federal agents to arrest people who are using marijuana in accordance with state law while in that state. But traveling with it across state borders is riskier and can carry harsher penalties.

When you cross state lines to transport an illegal substance, you're committing another federal crime called drug trafficking. The penalties for trafficking marijuana are much greater than illegal possession, with possible prison time and fines of $250,000 or more, depending on the quantity of marijuana. For those who want to fly with marijuana, they'll be subject to security checks by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), a federal agency governed by federal law. TSA's response to the discovery of marijuana during a security screening is the same in every state and at every airport regardless of state law. TSA officers are required to report any suspected violations of law to local, state, or federal authorities.

Recreational Marijuana as an Option in Some States

If you're traveling to an adult-use state, you might have the option of purchasing recreational marijuana, assuming you are 21 or older. States that have legalized the recreational use of marijuana don't require a purchaser to be a resident of the state. But it's important to know the laws of the state you are visiting. Rules about how, when, and where to consume legal marijuana vary from state to state and even from county to county. It's also illegal under federal law to travel back to your home state with marijuana.

Talk to a Lawyer

State marijuana laws are a confusing patchwork of regulations that vary from state to state and contradict federal law. This area of the law is changing rapidly. If you have questions about the limits of legal marijuana, you should contact a lawyer.

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