While possession, use, and sale of marijuana is still considered illegal under federal law, many states over the past several years have passed provisions legalizing marijuana use to treat certain medical conditions. As of May 2017, 29 states and the District of Columbia have legalized the purchase and use of medical marijuana from authorized dispensaries.

To legally purchase medical marijuana in states where it is available, you must first obtain a state issued medical marijuana card. Every state has a different application process for obtaining a medical marijuana card, however, all states require a signed recommendation from a licensed physician stating that you have qualifying condition and marijuana would help treat that condition. 

A valid marijuana medical card allows the purchase of marijuana and marijuana products such as cannabis oil and marijuana edibles. In addition, generally states allow patients with a medical marijuana card to grow their own marijuana plants for personal use. States vary widely regarding the amount of marijuana that can be purchased or grown with a medical marijuana card. If you have questions on your state’s medical marijuana policy consult the state health services website or contact a skilled medical marijuana attorney.

Will a Medical Marijuana Card Keep Me from Getting Criminal Charges?

Even though many state laws have legalized personal use and cultivation of medical marijuana, marijuana is still illegal under federal law. This means that while a valid medical marijuana card can shield you from prosecution by state authorities, it is still possible to be charged by federal law enforcement. The Obama administration issued written statements indicating no desire to interfere with state marijuana laws, but as of May 2017 it is still unclear how the Trump administration will approach marijuana enforcement.

In addition, while state medical marijuana laws allow patients to use marijuana to treat qualifying conditions, there are limits to the rights provided by a medical marijuana card. Despite holding a valid medical marijuana card, you may not:

Finally, while medical marijuana may be legal in your state, employers are still allowed require drug testing and deny employment for marijuana use.

Are Medical Marijuana Cards Legal in My State?

As of 2017, 29 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana. These jurisdictions are: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Washington D.C., and West Virginia.

Out of those 30 jurisdictions, five states do not issue medical marijuana cards. These states are: Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, and Washington. Massachusetts will accept physician letters in place of medical marijuana cards until the state begins issuing the cards.

Thus, each state may have different rules regarding the sale, possession, use, and distribution of marijuana for medical purposes. However, each state may differ as to whether they actually require medical marijuana cards. Also, even within a given state, the marijuana laws may differ according to county. You may wish to check the laws of your area regarding local marijuana laws and policies. 

Finally, some states do not decriminalize marijuana usage at all. Most states still treat possession as a criminal charge, although proof of medical use may result in a more lenient sentence, such as a fine instead of jail time

Can I Use My State’s Medical Marijuana Card in Other States?

As of May 2017, only the following 7 states allow the use of out-of-state medical marijuana cards: Arizona, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. However, visitors to Arizona and Michigan should note that there are special restrictions for non-residents with medical marijuana cards.

Do I need a Lawyer if I am Charged with Possession of Medical Marijuana?

If you feel have questions regarding your state’s medical marijuana policy or if you have been charged with violating medical marijuana laws, you may wish to contact an experienced criminal lawyer for help. Medical marijuana laws are different from state to state and the penalties can be quite severe.