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  • Eli Hunt

Crossing state lines with medical marijuana? Understand the laws to keep yourself safe!

Commuting with Medical Marijuana in the DMV

As you may already know, flying with medical marijuana from one state to the next is prohibited by federal law. But what about driving? When you live in the DMV, driving across state lines happens every day and in almost every way.

In fact, in areas such as Takoma Park, an afternoon stroll might take you from DC to Maryland and back again in just a few minutes. Many of us live outside the city in the suburbs of Virginia, too, and commute into DC each and every day.

If you are someone with a medical marijuana card in the DMV, all of this travel and crossing state lines may be giving you a bit of anxiety. Where can you go with your medical marijuana? Knowing the state laws in the region, as well as the overarching federal laws that might apply, can be a big help.

Understanding Medical Marijuana Reciprocity

First off, it’s important to understand how reciprocity works in the context of medical marijuana. Several states in the Union have laws of reciprocity related to the substance. What does that mean? It means that one state will honor the laws of the other state. For example, the District has reciprocity with Virginia, allowing Virginians with medical marijuana cards to possess and purchase medical marijuana when in D.C. This means that you are at no risk if you have a Virginian medical marijuana card and then purchase it or are found to be in possession of it in non-federal areas of the District.

Hurray, you might say, end of story!

Well, not so much. There are a bunch of caveats in there and those living in the DMV need to consider all of them. Especially the ones related to the term “non-federal.”

Federal Marijuana Laws vs State Marijuana Laws

Yes, there is a big catch in the DMV and that is federal lands. What is the difference between federal land and state or district land in the DMV? Federal land is overseen by federal law, not state law.

In the U.S., every state has its own set of rules, of course. Then there are also federal laws that transcend state barriers and effectively serve as umbrella laws across all the states. This means that individuals are beholden to both their state laws AND federal laws… but sometimes, those laws don’t always agree, especially when it comes to medical marijuana. The issue of federal law and state law was an important consideration, for example, when DC was developing its own medical marijuana rules.

This is where it gets complicated for folks in the DMV with medical marijuana. For one, travelling across state lines is a federal act. Secondly, whenever you are in federal land, federal law applies. And what is there a lot of in the DMV? You guessed it— federal land.

Medical Marijuana on Federal Lands

One of the odder characteristics of the DMV is just how much acreage in the region is dedicated to federal lands. In the district, for example, almost one-third of the city is federal land. And yes, marijuana is still illegal there, even if it is legal one block away.

What is federal land in the DMV? Any of the following sites might be federal land:

· Museums

· National parks

· Government buildings

· Tourist sites

What is a citizen of the DMV to do, then? As long as you have your medical marijuana secured and you are not impaired, you can travel freely in your state where medical marijuana, provided you stay off federal lands.

Always keep in mind where you are, of course. In Virginia, remember, a walk in the woods could take you into Shenandoah National Park where marijuana is illegal under federal law. If you are a Virginia commuter who works on federal property, whether in DC or Maryland, be very careful about carrying your medical marijuana with you on an average workday.

Keeping Yourself Safe When Commuting in the DMV

With all that being said, just where can you drive with your medical marijuana? If you are going from Virginia to DC or back, you are relatively safe, provided you adhere to all the traffic laws. It is a risk, but it is a relatively low risk. Since possession is legal in DC, Virginians found to be in possession in the District should be safe. The same goes for DC citizens in Virginia. The only caveat is that people from DC cannot purchase in the Commonwealth.

When driving, make sure that your car is in good working order, and that your tags are up to date. Always obey all traffic laws, and keep your products discrete. Options such as edibles, tinctures, or lotions are safer ideas. Make certain, too, that you are not impaired. Virginia dispensaries offer many products that minimize impairment, including topicals and high CBD/low THC products, such as CBD vape cartridges.

Your best bet for keeping yourself safe is to just purchase any medical marijuana you need in the state with reciprocity when you arrive there. Again: While DC offers reciprocity to Virginians, Virginia does not do the same for visitors from the District.

And again, remember, travelling across a state line is technically a federal act, and as such carrying medical marijuana over any border in the DMV is illegal. The safest approach is to always use and secure your medical marijuana in the privacy of your own home. Avoiding federal lands at all times, too, is the best way to avoid trouble with federal law enforcement officers.

Medical marijuana has brought a lot of value to the lives of those in the DMV. By keeping a few rules of the road in mind, individuals who use medical marijuana in the region can ensure they stay safe and in compliance with the law. If you are interested in getting your own medical marijuana card, set up a consultation with one of our medical professionals and learn how to qualify today.

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