Reciprocity and Medical Cannabis: Embracing a Nation

by | Feb 5, 2022

Written by Hannah Izer

Medical cannabis reciprocity is the idea that one state will recognize and accept a medical cannabis card issued in another state. Today, only a handful of states recognize an out-of-state medical marijuana designation, including:

  • Arkansas
  • Hawaii
  • Maine
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Mexico
  • Oklahoma
  • Rhode Island
  • Utah
  • Washington D.C.

To complicate matters, each state with medical marijuana legislation has different requirements for acquiring a medical cannabis designation. However, unlike traditional prescriptions, which can be verified and filled at pharmacies nationwide, filling a cannabis recommendation in another state can be difficult if not impossible.

Without a national system to verify medical cannabis status, cannabis patients take a great risk when traveling outside their home state. In addition to the potential of limited or even prohibited access, possession of marijuana in some states can cause legal nightmares and even arrest.

We recently spoke with Robert Beasley, CEO of FLUENT Cannabis Care, regarding the future of cannabis reciprocity and what changes need to happen to make reciprocity a reality for traveling cannabis patients.

Beasley, a Florida native, worked closely with lawmakers and regulators to initiate the medical cannabis program in his home state. From there, he pivoted his law practice to focus on the cannabis industry and has served as a consultant overseeing the development of businesses within the emerging cannabis marketplace in multiple states. He provides deep expertise in cannabis law and business development as a multistate operator.

Cannabis Reciprocity is Unique in Florida

While Florida doesn’t yet allow full reciprocity, what is unique to Florida is the data predicting the winter “snowbird” population will increase medical cannabis sales within the Sunshine State.

Beasley stated, “We see a seasonal rise in sales as we become a larger footprint in this state (Florida), and with twenty-seven stores, we can identify trends. One of the trends is we get a large spike in sales starting in November through March.” This spike is due to the increase of the Florida population within the colder seasons.

Often, Beasley is asked, what the next move is for Florida, short of recreational cannabis? “My answer was a reciprocity program. Reciprocity would be a unique aspect to Florida, and that is that we have a gigantic tourist population that is both seasonal and non-seasonal, and most of those are not card property owners but rather are here from a week to six months,” he responded.

He also stated that “allowing reciprocity to states that have medical programs could increase our sales by 20-30% without one new patient, we would be harnessing one of the attributes of Florida that makes us unique, our tourists. Let’s get those tourists to realize the value of our medical program by accepting their registered cards from other states.”

Tracking Processes for the New Wave of Snowbirds

Although Florida isn’t a reciprocal state, long-term visitors can apply for a medical designation. “Snowbirds are already allowed under the current regulation, as long as they can prove they've lived in the state of Florida for 31 days or more. The tracking process is the same that we use for the rest of the patients: Florida’s Medical Marijuana Use Registry,” Beasley shared.

This will undoubtedly bring structure to the reciprocity system that needs to be put into place to ensure that out-of-state consumers follow all the same regulations as in-state patients. “If the state allows full reciprocity, it will probably fall under Florida’s Medical Marijuana Use Registry to make sure they follow the same rules as everyone else.”

Traceability and Transparency

Because of the varying laws from state to state and various requirements for medical cannabis recommendations, systems for tracking medical cannabis sales could become complex. Outside of sales, law enforcement in non-legal states should also be able to quickly verify the status of a medical cannabis cardholder to eliminate unnecessary arrests and court cases.

When asked to comment on what kind of technology is necessary to ensure that a reciprocity system will work smoothly for out-of-state visitors, Beasley replied, “We definitely want to avoid the paper-only patient registry to take care of out-of-state patients, as we’ve seen in other states.”

“The cannabis industry has evolved, and we already have seed-to-sale software technology allowing us to register and track out-of-state patients electronically. Harnessing existing technology will decrease the time and costs associated with the paper-only option while creating a seamless experience for the patient,” Beasley continued.

Reciprocity from State to State

While we wait for a blanket change at the federal level or the necessary systems for amnesty, medical cannabis patients should take caution when traveling. Be aware, reciprocity varies from state to state, as well. Some states allow dispensaries to accept MMJ cards or even physical recommendations from any state. Others have stipulations like out-of-state patients can possess medical marijuana but not purchase it. Or some states allow visiting patients to buy from dispensaries but only if their home state’s program is equally restrictive. Travelers should always verify each state’s cannabis laws prior to their visit.