Two Medical Pot States Don’t Require Residency

Out-of-staters may now obtain medical marijuana cards in Oregon and Montana.

With the discovery of a loophole in Montana’s medical marijuana law, the Big Sky State joins Oregon in no longer requiring residency to obtain legal authorization to use medicinal cannabis.

Montana health officials said Friday that patients don’t have to live in Montana to receive medical cards from the state after the Department of Public Health and Human Services.

The discovery was made after reviewing plans to require medical marijuana applicants to have a Montana driver’s license or state-issued identification, according to department spokesman Chuck Council.

The new driver’s license policy was to begin Monday, but the legal review has halted those plans.

“The law is mute on the subject of legal residency and there is is no recourse for the Department of Public Health and Human Services but to keep the situation as it stands,” Council said, reported Matt Volz of The Associated Press.

“On Monday, we will be moving forward, status quo, on the processing of out-of-state applications,” Council said.

The Montana Department of Health maintains the state’s medical marijuana patient registry, which included about 23,500 patients at the end of July. The patient list increased by nearly 4,000 people in just a month, a continuation of the medical marijuana boom that in the first six months of 2010 has seen more than 12,300 registered users added.

Montana health officials decided to tighten the residency requirements when they discovered several out-of-staters, such as college students and snowbirds, had applied for medical marijuana cards. It is unclear how many such applications were received.

But unless the Legislature changes the state law, Council said, health officials have no choice but to accept out-of-state applications from qualified patients.

Oregon Program Also Accepts Out-Of-Staters

Oregon, like Montana, may no longer require residency as part of its medical marijuana permit application process.

Oregon applicants formerly needed to supply proof of residency as well as Oregon identification as part of their application. However, the Beaver State shaved its residency requirement after it was informed by the state Department of Justice that such a requirement was inconsistent with the language of the bill.

Tawana Nichols, Oregon Medical Marijuana Program manager, said while the program was created with the intent of specifically benefiting Oregonians, there was no requirement of Oregon residency written into the bill, so they could not lawfully require it.

Medical Marijuana Cards Good In Issuing State Only

Patients should be aware that even though anyone with a qualifying medical condition can get a medical marijuana card in Montana and Oregon, those cards provide legal protection only the state which issued them, with four exceptions: Maine, Michigan, Rhode Island and Montana’s medical marijuana laws have “reciprocity,” which means they accept medical cannabis authorizations from other states.

Exercise caution even in those four states. In some of the states that allow reciprocity, it’s only for “use” — not allowing them to actually obtain it — and even then sometimes there’s a time limit on your out-of-state authorization. Talk with a lawyer and definitely check local laws and enforcement patterns.

Patients are particularly cautioned about carrying marijuana into states which have not yet legalized its medical use.

In other words, as soon as you enter those states, you can be arrested for possession of cannabis.

Editor’s note: Steve Elliott, a working journalist since 1982, is editor of Toke of the Town, Village Voice Media’s site of cannabis news, views, rumor and humor.

The author wishes to sincerely thank Adam Colbert for his excellent research assistance in the preparation of this article.


3 Responses to Two Medical Pot States Don’t Require Residency

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  2. Vote -1 Vote +1Rick Rosio
    August 9, 2010 at 7:48 am

    As we see the beginning of common sense approach to the medical cannabis industry, more state legislators and state administrators will take a realist position concerning medical marijuana.
    Montana has taken a hands on position and working with providers, patients and support staff to bring a workable law for all concerned.
    It is legitimate for law enforcement to want controls, and any legal operation should have no problem following standard business practices and applying for all licenses needed.
    It is about the welfare of our clients, and a means to help with needless suffering brought on by illness.
    This is not a right or left political debate, but one of compassion and understanding of the needs of others .
    Thank you
    Rick Rosio
    Montana Pain Management

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