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Do You Have to Be a U.S. Resident to Get a Medical Card?

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There are technically no laws that actively require someone to be a fully-fledged U.S. citizen to purchase medical marijuana. Most legalized states ask for proof of residency as a part of the application process, so those with an in-state address should be able to apply for a medical marijuana card.

However, because cannabis is federally illegal, your status as a medical marijuana patient could complicate your ability to enter the United States or reside there as a foreign citizen. Whether you’re a temporary visitor or here on a visa, here’s what you need to know about residency and accessing medical cannabis.

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Who Can Get a Medical Marijuana Card in the United States?

Thanks to cannabis’ FDA status as a Schedule I illegal substance, no regulations dictate who can or cannot get a medical marijuana card. This is because, under federal law, there’s no such program. Cannabis is regulated at the state level, with many U.S. states operating a unique medical cannabis program that varies by region.

Many states require residency proof to apply for a medical marijuana card. If you have a physical address in the legalized state, you can meet with a qualifying physician, obtain a recommendation, and apply for your medical marijuana card.

However, this becomes trickier if you don’t have a physical resident address in the legalized state. Some states, such as California, allow non-residents to apply for and obtain a medical marijuana card, but most require proof of residency.

You also usually need a copy of a state-issued I.D. to apply for a medical card. Either a driver’s license or regular state ID will do the trick.

Can Non-U.S. Residents Get Medical Cards?

Non-U.S. residents can apply for medical marijuana cards if they have a physical address and are registered residents in a legalized state. Some state laws require individuals to have lived in the state for a certain amount of time before applying, while others, like California, don’t require a physical address at all and only need an ID.

However, cannabis use can disqualify a person from entering the U.S. or the immigration process if that individual is applying for a green card or citizenship. A medical marijuana card serves as ample proof of drug use, which may or may not be worth the risks to future citizenship.

What to Do If You Need to Use Medical Cannabis While Traveling in the U.S.

Opt to Travel to a State with Recreational Cannabis

If you travel to or reside in a state with recreational (adult-use) cannabis, there’s no need to apply for a medical marijuana card to purchase it. Recreational/adult-use marijuana programs don’t require the same application process or costs as a medical program. They can save you the trouble of needing a residence in a legalized state. You simply need proof of ID stating that you’re 21 or older.

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Don’t Travel with Cannabis Across State Lines

Marijuana is federally illegal, and as soon as you transport your weed from one state to another, you forfeit the legal protections that that state’s program affords. Ensure you stay on the law’s good side by not carrying your cannabis across state lines. If you’re going from one state to another, get rid of your cannabis beforehand.

The Bottom Line

Unfortunately, unless you legally reside in a state with a medical marijuana program, you won’t be able to get a card or purchase cannabis for medical use from a medical dispensary. Visiting a recreationally legalized state sidesteps this issue, as long as you don’t bring cannabis when crossing state lines.

Need to get qualified for a medical card? Start the simple application and get approved for a medical marijuana card online.

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