Reciprocity is the mutual exchange of privileges between individuals, businesses, states, and nations. In the world of cannabis, specifically medical marijuana, reciprocity refers to one state or nation recognizing written recommendations for medical cannabis or medical marijuana (MMJ) cards from another. For example, Nevada recognizes medical marijuana recommendations issued in other states, which makes sense given its tourist-driven economy. When states pass medical marijuana laws, whether or not to offer reciprocity is usually something lawmakers consider.
Can I use my medical card in another state?
You may use your medical card in another state if that state offers reciprocity. Some states allow their dispensaries to accept MMJ cards or even physician recommendations from any state. Others have stipulations, like out-of-state patients can possess medical marijuana but not purchase it. Or some states allow visiting patients to purchase from dispensaries but only if their home state's program is equally restrictive.
Each state maintains its own medical marijuana reciprocity laws, so check with the specific location before you present your out-of-state MMJ card. Don't assume that just because a state has legalized recreational marijuana, you'll be able to purchase medical cannabis, too. California and Colorado, two states with liberal policies and legal recreational markets, don't offer reciprocity for MMJ cardholders.
Can you get a medical card if you don't live in that state?
Most states require ID or other proof of residency to apply for MMJ cards so the only way to legally obtain a medical card is to be a resident of a state where medical marijuana is permitted. However, Hawaii and Florida, both states with large numbers of tourists, offer short-term cards and other accommodations for visiting medical marijuana patients.
Any attempt to circumvent a state's residency requirement, or to take marijuana across state lines, even if it was purchased legally, could result in criminal charges, fines, and jail time.
Know before you go
If you're a medical marijuana patient, it's best to know exactly what the rules are before traveling to another state, especially since cannabis is still illegal at the federal level so taking any cannabis across state lines is always a crime. Cannabis-based medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration and available by prescription are the only exceptions. This is true even if you purchase the medical marijuana legally. To avoid problems, and possible criminal charges, check the regulations and reciprocity of the state, territory, or country you plan to visit before you go.
Reviewed by Weedmaps Editors on 5/14/21.