When It Comes To Cannabis, Compassion Stops At The State Line


When you travel, your medical rights don’t travel with you


Linda is a medical marijuana patient registered in Massachusetts who recently wrote to MassCann about her situation. When she visits family in Michigan, she can’t take her medicine along, because Michigan and Massachusetts don’t honor each other’s patient IDs. In fact, Massachusetts doesn’t have reciprocity agreements with any other medical marijuana states.


The need for cooperation between states has become apparent only slowly, as Keith Stroup, legal counsel for NORML (the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws), explained in an email: “None of the early medical use states included reciprocity with other states, but several of the later states do. It is usually only available to patients from a state that itself offers reciprocity to patients from the visitor’s state.” In other words, each state waits for the other states to move.


One might wonder whether medical IDs will still be important once stores open in (we still hope) July. “Yes,” answers Nichole Snow, executive director of the Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance. “Parents, guardians, and caregivers will have identification to provide when taking pediatric patients to see their physicians.


“Registered Qualified Patients will not be taxed on marijuana. MPAA is pushing to have tax-free marijuana for patients throughout the entire safe access program. … There will be a separate line exclusively for patients and the Registered Qualified Patient will have the option to use either line to purchase their medicine.”


Patients will also have access to a reserve supply that stores and dispensaries will be required to set aside to avoid running out of medicine when stores open. And of course, patient IDs will still matter in states where only medical marijuana is legal.


So how do we get Mass and other states to start recognizing each other’s patient IDs the same way they recognize each other’s driver’s licenses? Instituting agreements with other states is beyond the powers of the Cannabis Control Commission; the state legislature would have to pass a bill. Snow hopes lawmakers will consider a bill to institute reciprocity in next year’s session. Till then, medical cannabis patients are liable to find that compassion stops at the state line.


Andy Gaus is a Massachusetts-based cannabis advocate and a member of MassCann-NORML.