Medical marijuana patients from across the U.S. can now buy their medicine at D.C. dispensaries.
Mayor Muriel Bowser announced Thursday that the list of states with medical marijuana programs whose residents can purchase their pot in D.C. is expanding from 19 to 27, with four more states currently under review. The new states added include Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Nevada, New Mexico, New York and Vermont.
Under D.C.’s program, patients can buy up to four ounces of marijuana every 30 days. There are 6,079 registered patients in the city. Out-of-state patients will only have to show their state-issued medical marijuana card to access any of the city’s six operating dispensaries.
The idea of allowing patients from other states to purchase medical marijuana — known as reciprocity — surfaced in D.C. in 2016, when advocates asked the Council to allow it because of the city’s status as a destination for tourism and work travel. But it only took effect in April 2018, and was limited to 19 states whose medical marijuana programs had functionally equivalent standards and regulations to D.C. Bowser’s new action largely lifts that requirement.
There are 33 states across the country with legal medical marijuana programs, but reciprocity arrangements vary dramatically — and D.C.’s may be the most far-reaching.
Maryland, for one, does not allow out-of-state patients to purchase medical marijuana. New Jersey recently passed a law allowing out-of-state patients to possess and use medical marijuana, but they can only purchase it if they get authorization from a local health care practitioner. California, Oregon and Oklahoma do not have formal reciprocity, but they allow visitors to apply for medical marijuana cards while there.
D.C.’s medical marijuana program has expanded rapidly since sales first started in 2013. The number of dispensaries has increased, and the city removed the requirement that residents suffer from specific conditions in order to qualify for medical marijuana. But there are still some hiccups, including the fact that while medical marijuana is legal, certain D.C. government employees have been forbidden from using it.
A bill currently working its way through the D.C. Council would further loosen the program by allowing patients to get medical marijuana on a provisional basis while awaiting their city-issued card, lift the current cap on the number of plants that cultivation centers can grow, and allow dispensaries to create areas for patients to use their marijuana if using it at home is not a viable option. (Residents of public housing could be evicted if they are caught with marijuana, even if they are patients of the medical marijuana program.)
Additionally, Bowser and Council member David Grosso (I-At Large) have each introduced bills to legalize the sale of recreational marijuana. (Possession, cultivation and personal use was legalized in 2015.) In June, a congressional provision that prohibited D.C. from moving forward on legalizing sales was pulled out of a spending bill by Democrats in the House. The bill is expected to be taken up by the Senate in September.