Why Interstate Travel With Medical Cannabis Is Still Tricky

Why Interstate Travel
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At last count, 38 states and the District of Columbia allow medical cannabis consumption. Common sense would seem to dictate that interstate travel between these jurisdictions should not be a problem. But it is. Interstate travel with medical cannabis is still a tricky proposition. Experts warn against trying it.

Issues with interstate travel exist on two fronts: federal law and contradictions between state laws. Until the legal issues are settled, it is best to not take your chances by carrying medical cannabis from one state to another. There are workarounds if you absolutely must travel.

Still Federally Illegal

The big issue is that cannabis remains illegal under federal law. The purpose for which the plant is used makes no difference. That being the case, carrying medical cannabis across state lines amounts to interstate transport of illegal drugs under federal statute. Getting caught doing so could result in substantial penalties after a federal trial.

 Incidentally, this is the very reason that all the states with medical cannabis programs require that all cannabis sold within their borders also be grown within their borders. States are hesitant to allow cannabis in from neighboring states due to worries about federal enforcement.

Contradictory State Laws

 The other issue with interstate travel is contradictory state laws. Medical cannabis is regulated at the state level, at least for the time being. As with any other state-level regulations, cannabis regulations differ from one state to the next. What is legal in one state may not be in another.

 One would think that states could work out reciprocity laws the same way they have with things like driver’s licenses and pistol permits. But again, the states are reluctant to do so as long as cannabis remains illegal under federal law. Any form of reciprocity could subject a state to federal intervention.

How Medical Cannabis Patients Can Travel

 All of this begs the question of how medical cannabis patients can travel safely if they cannot take their medications with them. It is helpful to look at this question from two angles, beginning with obtaining cannabis in a state with a medical-only program. Utah is one such state.

 According to the operators of the Zion Medicinal medical cannabis pharmacy in Cedar City, Utah does not allow visitors to bring medical cannabis with them into the state. All cannabis products consumed in Utah must be purchased in Utah. However, the state does offer temporary visitor cards for medical cannabis patients. A patient could obtain a card in advance of their visit, then purchase medications upon arrival.

The other angle involves visiting a state with legal non-medical consumption. New York and Colorado are perfect examples. Although medical cannabis patients cannot purchase products from state-licensed pharmacies without a valid medical cannabis card, they could still purchase from non-medical dispensaries. It is not the ideal situation given that medical cannabis is often more potent, but it is a workable solution for a temporary visit.

Check State Laws Before You Travel

 If there is a lesson to be learned here, it is this: medical cannabis users should check state laws before they travel outside of their home states. What each state does and does not allow clearly shows a path forward for interstate travelers. Also, travelers should understand they are taking a big risk should they choose to carry medical cannabis across state lines.

Fortunately, there are workarounds for most states. In the 38 that allow medical cannabis, there is at least one way that visitors can still gain access to much needed medications outside of their own home states.

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