“It’s not a bad place to visit,” said Gary Storck, 56, who takes a 40-hour, $1,000 Amtrak ride out west from Wisconsin every year to renew his medical marijuana card. “It lifts my spirits to be in a place where medical cannabis is legal and life goes on.”
Some out-of-state medical marijuana patients get their Oregon card because it allows them to use cannabis legally while they’re in the state. Others hope it might provide some legal protection if they’re arrested back home where marijuana is outlawed for any purpose.
Many of them see an Oregon card as important recognition that their use of marijuana is at least legally recognized somewhere in the United States.
“To be able to have at least one state say, ‘Yes, we accept that you are a patient,’ means so much to me,” Storck said. “It was worth the trip to be recognized as a patient. I have been fighting my whole adult life for my medicine. My own home state, where I was born, won’t recognize that.
“I am really thankful to Oregon,” said Storck, who has a map of Oregon hanging in his Wisconsin home. “I am legal in every inch of that state and that is a beautiful thought for me.”
Since June 2010, when the state started issuing cards to non-residents, nearly 600 out-of-staters have traveled to Oregon to get one, according to the Oregon Health Authority, the agency overseeing the state’s medical marijuana program.
While that’s a small number compared to the 72,000 Oregon residents who got cards during the same period, it’s seen as a significant development for medical marijuana advocates and patients who rely on cannabis to relieve their symptoms.
|Attorney Leland Berger: “There are patients … who travel to Oregon to visit friends and family and ought not to be interfered with because they are possessing their medicine”
People who live in states that do not allow the medicinal use of marijuana say they’re relieved for somebody, somewhere, to legally recognize their right to do so, even if their home state does not. The cards do offer protection from being arrested for marijuana while in Oregon, even for out-of-staters.
The biggest number of out-of-state applications for Oregon medical marijuana cards comes from another medical marijuana state, Washington, with 309 patients obtaining Oregon cards. Idaho, which doesn’t allow medical marijuana, came in second with 138 patients; California, which does allow medicinal cannabis, came in third with 50.
“There are patients who live in California and Washington or Idaho for that matter … who travel to Oregon to visit friends and family and ought not be interfered with because they are possessing their medicine,” said Leland Berger, a Portland lawyer and medical marijuana advocate.
Berger argued the 2010 case before the Oregon Court of Appeals which ultimately prompted the state to drop residency requirements from its medical marijuana program. The court upheld a California man’s conviction for marijuana possession, but in its opinion said that access to medicinal cannabis is a protected right of all citizens traveling from state to state.
That appellate ruling prompted Oregon’s Attorney General to issue an opinion clarifying the state’s residency requirements for medical marijuana cards: Anyone can get a medicinal cannabis card in Oregon as long as they’ve seen an Oregon-licensed physician who’s diagnosed a qualifying illness and suggests marijuana as treatment.
Five other medical marijuana states — Michigan, Maine, Montana, Rhode Island and Arizona — honor Oregon’s medicinal cannabis cards. Oddly, next-door-neighbors Washington and California do not.
While California only issues medical marijuana cards to state residents, state law allows California-licensed physicians to issues “recommendations” (with no cards, just paperwork) for medical marijuana to out-of-staters; those recommendations allow a person to legally use cannabis while in California.
Make no mistake about it, though — an Oregon medical marijuana card will offer you virtually no legal cover at all outside of Oregon’s borders, unless you’re in MI, ME, MT, RI or AZ.
“I mean it’s significant in the sense that it’s progressive and fairly liberal compared to other states,” said Kris Hermes of Americans for Safe Access (ASA)
, a national group advocating for medical marijuana patients.
Don Skakie, 52, of Renton, Washington, got his Oregon medical marijuana card so that he can travel through the state without worrying about getting arrested for cannabis. A union glazier and medical marijuana activist
, Skakie is also separately authorized to use cannabis in California and his home state of Washinigton, as well.
“I have some work down here,” he said, referring to the Oregon Cannabis Tact Act (OCTA 2012)
. “But if I was to be pulled over, my Washington authorization would not be recognized as valid. I need to be recognized as a patient so I don’t go off to jail.”
Skakie, who uses medical marijuana to treat chronic back pain, said even with cannabis authorizations completely up and down the West Coast (CA, OR, WA), he’s still cautious about traveling with marijuana, and discreet about using it.
He said he recently helped his sister move from California to Missouri. “I still had my medicine with me on that trip and medicated as I need to, but I was certainly hiding in the shadows and being extremely cautious,” Skakie said.
How To Get Your Oregon Medical Marijuana Card
To get an Oregon medicinal cannabis card, applicants must:
• Complete an application with the state of Oregon
• Have one of the following medical conditions: cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease or a medical condition that causes severe pain, severe nausea, seizures, persistent muscle spasms, or cachexia
• Be seen by an Oregon-licensed doctor
who can verify that the patient has a qualifying condition
• Pay a base application fee of $200; a reduced fee is available to patients on disability or food stamps
Note: Applicants must list a marijuana grow site located in Oregon on the form. Patients and designated growers can cultivate marijuana, but it is illegal to buy it in the state. Applicants can be their own grower.