Traveling with Medical Marijuana Across State Lines?

by Jaburg Wilk
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Jaburg Wilk

I live in Arizona and I have a medical marijuana card, is it possible to bring medicine from out of state? In recent years, two of Arizona's neighbors (Colorado and California) have changed their laws to allow adults to purchase and consume recreational marijuana legally.  Arizona voters passed the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (“AMMA”) to allow qualifying patients to purchase and use medical marijuana as long as the patient meets all the requirements of the AMMA and the rules adopted by the Arizona Department of Health Services (“DHS”) regarding the use of medical marijuana.    

Under Arizona law, the use of marijuana by anyone who does not have a medical marijuana card issued by DHS is still considered a crime, and can be prosecuted.  That makes Arizona different from Colorado or California.  The question many people ask is whether they can transport marijuana from a state where it was legally purchased back to Arizona. The answer is an unqualified NO, as this is a violation of both State and Federal laws.  

Federal Law Prohibits the Use or Possession of Marijuana 

Even though voters in several states have approved the use of marijuana, either medically or recreationally, it is still a federal crime to use or even have it. Any type of intersate transport -for example between California and Arizona- will be subject to federal scrutiny, and possible seizure or possession prosecution. Even if you legally purchased marijuana in California and are bringing it back to Arizona where you have a medical card, transporting it across state lines is a federal offense. 

Arizona Prohibits the Importation of Marijuana  

The AMMA allows qualifying card holders to purchase medical marijuana from licensed Arizona dispensaries. Those dispensariesare tightly controlled and the cultivation, purchase, and sale of medical marijuana to qualified card holders is highly regulated. Under the AMMA a card holder must purchase from a Arizona licensed dispensary to comply with those rules. So even if you have an Arizona card, you cannot bring in marijuana from state, such as California or Colorado, where you can legally purchase it.  

Border Patrol is Seizing Marijuana on Interstate 8  

The United States Border Patrol announced that it would be using Border Patrol checkpoints along Interstate 8 to inspect vehicles and seize marijuana.  Border Patrol is a federal agency reporting to Homeland Security, and they are enforcing federal law as it relates to possession of marijuana. The recent change in California law to allow recreational marijuana, was met with an annocuncement by Border Patrol that agents would be searching vehicles at checkpoints, and seizing marijuana under federal law.

The Bottom Line  

Arizona residents traveling to other states, even if they hold a valid DHS- issued card, should not try to bring back marijuana with them to Arizona.    

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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