Home Health Using Medical Cannabis: Visitor Cards vs. BYO

Using Medical Cannabis: Visitor Cards vs. BYO

Up until recently, Utah medical cannabis users did not have to buy their products in state. Patients in more rural areas could cross into other cannabis-friendly states to get their products, especially if they didn’t have a Utah dispensary within a reasonable distance. All that has changed. Beginning in July 2021, all medical cannabis products used in the state must be bought in the state. What does that mean to visitors?

Different states have different ways of dealing with visitors. In Utah, visitors can apply for a temporary medical cannabis card that covers them during their visits. But that being the case, why not allow out-of-state guests to bring their own medical cannabis with them?

1. Transporting Between States

Utah’s previous loophole allowing residents and visitors to purchase medical cannabis products out-of-state represented a significant legal contradiction. Despite the loophole, it was still illegal under state law to carry cannabis products across the border from other states. And for the record, Utah is not alone in that regard.

The majority of states with medical cannabis programs (and no recreational use) do not allow importation from other states. There is a good reason for that: cannabis is still illegal at the federal level. Bringing cannabis into one state from another is a violation of federal law in the sense that it constitutes transporting illicit substances across state lines. Washington doesn’t view that very positively.

The states obviously do not want that liability. They don’t want to have medical cannabis programs in place that encourage people to buy product in neighboring states. Utah temporarily allowed it because there were not enough cannabis pharmacies to meet the high demand. But now that the state has fourteen pharmacies up and running, they want people to buy their medical cannabis products in the state.

2. The Medical Cannabis Visitor Card

Utah’s decision to offer a medical cannabis card to visitors was one of necessity. Prior to the card being made available, a patient couldn’t visit Deseret Wellness in Provo, for example, to purchase cannabis vaping cartridges. The only way to continue using one’s medicine while visiting Utah was to buy it on the street or bring it with them. Neither option was acceptable.

Utah’s visitor card is pretty easy to come by. Visitors need only go to the state’s medical cannabis website and follow the appropriate application link. The only difference between them and state residents is the form they fill out. Visitors fill out a distinctly different form, accompanied by an application fee and uploaded copy of a valid medical cannabis card from their home states.

Visitor card and duration varies from state to state. As a general rule, two weeks is about the limit. Many states, Utah included, allow visitors to obtain up to two visitor cards per year. The only downside is that applicants have to give themselves plenty of lead time. The application process only takes minutes to complete, but actual approval could take a week or more.

3. Changes at the Federal Level

Right now, the debate over visitor cards vs. bring your own (BYO) policies continue. It will likely go on until there are changes at the federal level. Some states just feel it is too risky to allow visitors to bring their own in violation of federal statutes against interstate transport. If marijuana were legalized at the federal level, things would probably change.

Medical cannabis users planning to visit other states should obviously check with those states regarding their visitor policies. Visitor cards represent the easiest way to allow out-of-state guests to continue using medical cannabis during their visits.


Ronny Watson