Updated on June 25, 2021.
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
You may have enrolled as a medical marijuana patient with your state, but that doesn’t always mean you can freely access your cannabis medications in public. Federal and state laws—especially drug-free zone regulations—may prohibit medical marijuana use in certain locations. Below, we’ll delve into everything you need to know regarding medical marijuana use and drug-free zones.
What Are Your Rights as a Medical Marijuana Patient?
You’ve gone through the process of becoming an authorized medical marijuana patient in your state, and now you’re eager to kick-start a new medication plan that may bring you relief. Other pharmaceuticals and prescriptions can be taken freely as advised by your doctor, but the laws surrounding medical marijuana use—and where you can legally use this substance—are more complicated.
Your rights as a patient are likely to differ depending on the state where you’ll be using your cannabis medications. Reference your state’s medical marijuana laws while consulting local regulations to ensure you stay within your legal limitations when using cannabis.
Is Cannabis Use Legal in School Zones?
Some children—and teachers—who rely on cannabis to curb their symptoms are prohibited from taking medical marijuana in a school zone.
The federal government states that those with a qualifying health condition and lawful access to medical cannabis must leave school grounds before using marijuana. Since schools throughout the country are designated drug-free zones, possessing or using marijuana in any amount for any reason on school property is illegal.
However, seven of the 31 states that have legalized medical marijuana have enacted laws or regulations to permit students who use cannabis to treat their illness to use it on school grounds. States that permit parents to administer non-smokable cannabis products to their children while at school include:
In Washington and Florida, it’s at each school district’s discretion whether or not they decide to permit drug-use on campus. In Colorado, the law grants teachers the authority to give students medical cannabis, which reduces the need for parents to travel to the school to give their child their medication when they need it.
Since the laws and regulations surrounding cannabis use on school grounds can be tricky, we advise that you use our online map located on our homepage to choose the state where you live to learn more about school zone laws in your area.
Federal vs. State Laws
On the federal level, cannabis remains an illegal substance — regardless of whether or not it’s used for medicinal purposes. You may be asking yourself, “How is this possible, especially in states where medical cannabis is legal?”
On the federal level, cannabis remains an illegal substance, regardless of whether it’s used for medicinal purposes. Although you may have lawful access to medical marijuana in your state, a state’s medical cannabis program is technically a violation of federal law. This means that even when you receive a diagnosis from a licensed physician, sign up for a medical ID card and register as a medical marijuana patient with your state, you still put yourself at risk of violating federal law.
While your state may implement wide-ranging laws meant to offer you greater protection as a medical marijuana patient, it’s vital to know where you should use cannabis — and in which locations you shouldn’t — to avoid experiencing any sort of repercussion or hassle.
How to Use Medical Marijuana Responsibly
As we mentioned above, the intersection of federal and state laws may leave you wondering whether or not you’ll experience legal protection when using cannabis. When in doubt, it’s best to ask those in charge of a given facility directly if you’re free to use medical cannabis, as the laws surrounding medical marijuana use in drug-free zones can be challenging to interpret.
It’s always best to avoid legal encounters or any potential issues with law enforcement. But, you want to have the ability to enjoy your rights as a medical marijuana patient, too. Below, we’ve compiled a list of three simple tips you should keep in mind when using cannabis outside of your home to ensure you enjoy a positive medical marijuana experience.
Consider When It’s Appropriate to Use Cannabis
If you smoke cannabis in open sight at a public event, you’re likely to attract some unwanted attraction — especially from those who may be opposed to marijuana use. Use your common sense about when it’s most appropriate to use your medical cannabis, and refrain from medicating in places where you’re likely to generate a hefty amount of unwanted rebuttal.
Consider limiting the amount of medical marijuana you consume in public. Often, the greatest issues surrounding public cannabis consumption arise from the complaints of others. When you’re conscious of others’ property and respect their rights, it’s much easier to ensure you’re not in direct violation of any public medical marijuana use laws.
When Traveling, Know the Laws in Your New Area
While you may be familiar with the rules and regulations that define your state, do you know the medical marijuana laws in place across the country? If traveling abroad, will you encounter drug-free areas that put you at risk of any legal repercussions?
A savvy and prepared medical marijuana patient will keep in mind that the laws and regulations governing cannabis use will differ depending on their location. A California-based patient who is accustomed to the state’s generous marijuana-friendly zones is not likely to enjoy the same degree of freedom in Kansas — for instance, where medical marijuana is still prohibited.
If you’re caught with cannabis in a state or country where it’s not legal, you put yourself at risk of committing a crime — regardless of your initial approval for medical marijuana use. Educate yourself on the laws of the areas where you plan on traveling to decide whether your cannabis use will be tolerated in your new destination.
Be a Prepared Medical Marijuana User
What does it mean to be a prepared and sensible medical cannabis user? Most importantly, anyone with lawful access to cannabis should have their medical marijuana ID card on them at all times. When you have legal documentation of your access to this substance, you’ll experience greater legal protection as an authorized patient.
Study the medical marijuana laws in your area to ensure you know where cannabis use is permitted. The best way to safeguard yourself against any potential issues is to be aware of the locations where you’re free to use your necessary cannabis medications.
If you rely on cannabis to treat an unwanted health condition or complication, it’s best to consult with government officials in your area to ensure you have safe and legal access to the medical supply you need. Since the laws governing medical marijuana are continually changing, be sure to check with our online blog and resources to stay up-to-date on the latest information about cannabis laws in your city today.