Cannabis laws can get confusing, and with them, so can medical marijuana patients’ legal rights. Federal law says one thing, while state law (sometimes) says another. State laws themselves are wildly inconsistent, alternately categorizing Cannabis as legal, legal for medical use only, illegal, or decriminalized – and even that can change within the same state depending on whether or not it’s a first offense! Medical marijuana is often legislated differently than recreational marijuana, and to make matters even more complicated, certain cities have adopted their own local measures. With so many contradictory laws bouncing off one another, many of my patients ask me the same question: am I allowed to bring my medical Cannabis outside Massachusetts?
Marijuana Legal Status by State
Let’s begin with a quick, at-a-glance summary of marijuana’s legal status in each of the 50 states. Please note the below list refers only to possession, and discounts transportation, distribution, and other matters. New legislation (and litigation) continues to shape Cannabis laws throughout the U.S., and the legal status of marijuana in your state may have changed since June, 2015, when this list was originally posted.
Alabama – ILLEGAL
Alaska – LEGAL
Arizona – Medical Use Only
Arkansas – ILLEGAL
California – Decriminalized
Colorado – LEGAL, Medical Use
Connecticut – Decriminalized, Medical Use
Delaware – Decriminalized
Florida – ILLEGAL
Georgia – Medical Use Only
Hawaii – Medical Use Only
Idaho – ILLEGAL
Illinois – Medical Use Only
Indiana – ILLEGAL
Iowa – ILLEGAL
Kansas – ILLEGAL
Kentucky – ILLEGAL
Louisiana – ILLEGAL
Maine – Decriminalized, Medical Use, Legal in Portland and South Portland
Maryland – Decriminalized (10 Grams or Less), Medical Use
Massachusetts – Decriminalized, Medical Use
Michigan – Medical Use Only
Minnesota – Decriminalized, Medical Use
Mississippi – Decriminalized (First Offense, 30 Grams or Less)
Missouri – ILLEGAL
Montana – Medical Use Only
Nebraska – Decriminalized (First Offense)
Nevada – Decriminalized (21+ Only), ILLEGAL (Under 21), Medical Use
New Hampshire – Medical Use Only
New Jersey – Medical Use Only
New Mexico – Medical Use Only
New York – Decriminalized (Concealed Only)
North Carolina – Decriminalized (0.5 Ounce or Less)
North Dakota – ILLEGAL
Ohio – Decriminalized
Oklahoma – ILLEGAL
Oregon – LEGAL, Medical Use
Pennsylvania – ILLEGAL (Decriminalized in Philadelphia)
Rhode Island – Decriminalized, Medical Use
South Carolina – ILLEGAL
South Dakota – ILLEGAL
Tennessee – ILLEGAL (Cannabis Oil Approved for Epilepsy/Seizures)
Texas – ILLEGAL
Utah – ILLEGAL
Vermont – Decriminalized, Medical Use
Virginia – ILLEGAL
Washington – LEGAL, Medical Use
West Virginia – ILLEGAL
Wisconsin – ILLEGAL
Wyoming – ILLEGAL
Is it Legal to Bring Your Medical Cannabis Out of Massachusetts?
Unfortunately for Massachusetts medical marijuana patients, the answer to this question is generally no. There are a few different legal issues a patient could find themselves confronted with.
To begin with, patients must always bear in mind that marijuana remains an illegal scheduled substance under federal law. Until the very recent past, the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) rigorously enforced federal marijuana laws. However, bills recently passed by Congress have curtailed federal funding for prosecuting cases involving medical Cannabis. Nonetheless, the fact remains that in many jurisdictions marijuana possession (and transportation) is illegal on the state level, as indicated by the list in the previous section. Just because the DEA’s powers have been limited does not mean that state prosecutors are powerless to file charges.
It’s also important to point out Massachusetts’ general lack of medical marijuana reciprocity laws (which, unfortunately, can get just as confusing as marijuana’s legal status).
Reciprocity laws – which you might be familiar with if you’re a hunter or a gun enthusiast – allow certain states to honor each other’s licenses and permits (for example, permits to carry firearms). Because Massachusetts has yet to establish any reciprocity laws with other states, your Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Card is currently not valid in other jurisdictions. As of June, 2015, only the following states have Cannabis reciprocity laws:
Here’s where it gets complicated. Let’s break it down into bullets so it’s easier to follow:
Massachusetts does not honor cards from any other states. If you’re not a Massachusetts resident, don’t expect to be able to smoke or purchase medical marijuana when you visit.
On the other hand, Rhode Island honors cards from Massachusetts…
…But only for possession. In other words, you cannot buy medical marijuana in Rhode Island with your Massachusetts card, you can only have it with you.
Maine will honor a card from Massachusetts (though not the other way around), but first, you’ll need to get a Maine “visitor certification” from a physician who is licensed to practice in Massachusetts.
When it comes to flying, the federal government has jurisdiction over U.S. airspace. While the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) has hinted at potentially relaxing the rules for passengers traveling between states where marijuana is legal (such as Colorado and Oregon), flying with marijuana remains risky and is strongly discouraged. In its official “prohibited items” brochure, the TSA takes the following legal stance:
TSA officers do not search for marijuana or other drugs; however, if an item is found that may violate federal law during security screening, TSA will refer the matter to law enforcement. Whether or not marijuana is considered medical marijuana, federal law provides no basis to treat medical marijuana differently than non-medical marijuana.
In other words, TSA agents will not go out of their way to search you specifically for Cannabis, as they are concerned primarily with aviation safety and not criminal law – but if they do they happen to find any marijuana in your luggage or on your person, they will notify the police.
Medical Cannabis has many health benefits and can help to alleviate the symptoms of conditions including but not limited to chronic pain, arthritis, ALS, MS, chronic insomnia, cancer, glaucoma, depression, anxiety, and HIV/AIDS. To discuss whether medical marijuana could be a suitable treatment option for you, call Inhale MD at (617) 477-8886 today.