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Opinions: Every medical marijuana state should be fully reciprocal

By Sue Vorenberg
Cannabis Daily Record

Traveling with medical marijuana is always a nerve wracking experience, filled with worry that your medicine will be seized or worse – you’ll wind up in jail.

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With any other prescription drug – including highly addictive things like Oxycodone – it’s easy enough to travel to another state and fill your prescription while you’re there.

But since cannabis is federally illegal, the same rules don’t apply.

It can be challenging enough to find a prescribing doctor, because HMOs and other traditional medical organizations forbid them from prescribing a federally illegal substance. But even after you go through the process of tracking one down and getting a prescription, you still can’t get that prescription filled in most other medical marijuana states because only seven of them have reciprocity.

To date, the states that allow medical marijuana card holders from other states to fill prescriptions are: Arizona, Delaware, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.

I understand why states are reluctant to allow reciprocity. Each state has its own list of conditions and requirements for patients to get into their medical marijuana systems – and those systems don’t always match with other states.

But considering there is no other infrastructure where out of state patients can get their medication – no pharmacy where their prescriptions can be refilled – I think it’s time for more medical marijuana states to step up and fill that gaping hole that prevents many patients from traveling at all.


(Here’s a full list of medical marijuana states from procon.org below:)

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Even if it’s just a temporary fix while we wait for national legalization, reciprocity between all the states would give patients a resource that seems mandatory for medical marijuana: Compassion.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, a medical marijuana patient can’t use their card if they travel between Washington and Oregon – even though both states have legal recreational cannabis. Instead, if they want to use the medical marijuana systems in both states, they have to get two cards – which together run about $250.

And if a patient wants to go further south to California? Yup. They have to get yet another card (I’ve seen them at around $50 in the Los Angeles area).

Besides the hassle of getting multiple cards, which can be time consuming, the lack of reciprocity also costs patients a lot of extra cash – something they need to hold onto because insurance companies don’t cover their medication.

papapishu-doctor-examining-a-patientSo medical marijuana patients that want to travel, visit family, even to go to an out-of-state hospital, often end up with extra stress, more costs and a lot of confusion as they try to navigate between systems. That seems like the antithesis of compassion.

Marijuana – both medical and recreational – has been very much a do-it-yourself thing on the part of states. Each state is evolving its own system while trying to keep the feds at bay. There are no overarching rules or structures to make everything parallel and consistent.

And, perhaps unsurprisingly, the federal government isn’t about to come in and provide any of those standards while cannabis is listed as a Schedule 1 drug.

In that vacuum, I’d love to see our medical marijuana states come together to fill that void and show the country how the system could work on a national level – and that means reciprocity between all those states so patients can fill their prescriptions without worry.

It also makes more sense on the federal side because patients traveling between those states wouldn’t have to worry about crossing state borders illegally with their medication – they can just get a prescription filled when they reach their destination.

State marijuana rules and regulations are a work in progress – evolving as new information comes to light and as new, more efficient models emerge. While you wait for the country to gain sanity over the issue, be sure to follow and read on the Drug Guardians out there, the pioneers that have been trying to get this issue panned out for decades! They need the support of everyone for their mission to work. Unification among the medical marijuana states is a logical step forward in that evolution – one that would show compassion for patients and also show the federal government that this system can work on an even larger scale.

Sue Vorenberg is the founder of Cannabis Daily Record. She has 20 years of experience as a journalist covering a wide array of topics, including cannabis legalization and consumer markets. She also founded The Columbian’s Cannabis Chronicles blog and spent about three months working in the industry. You can reach her at sue@cannabisdailyrecord.com

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