If You Have a Medical Card, Where Can You Smoke Marijuana?
Photo by Cristian S.
America’s medical marijuana revolution has brought relief to millions of people with a range of conditions. If your doctor believes you can benefit from medical marijuana, you acquire rights that others don’t have. But if you have a medical card, where can you smoke?
It’s a hot-button issue that isn’t always clear-cut when you buy weed for the first time. The rules are complex, meaning many law-abiding citizens could find themselves in trouble with the law if they aren’t aware of the rules.
America has debated for years whether medical marijuana should be legal. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, currently, 37 states, three U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia.
So, with so many states legalizing marijuana for medical purposes, where can you smoke medical weed?
Is Smoking Weed in Public Legal?
Many medical marijuana card holders are confused about smoking weed outside or in the public domain. Can you light up in the park and get high?
Generally, the answer is no. However, according to the CDC, 18% of Americans tried weed at least once in 2019, which includes legal marijuana card holders, recreational users, and illegal use.
Many Americans make this mistake because, in Canada, smoking marijuana for recreational or medicinal reasons is permitted in most public places. As a result, it receives the same treatment as tobacco smoking, not so in the U.S.
The discrepancy is due to the fact marijuana remains an illegal schedule I drug according to federal law. This prevents you from entering an airport with marijuana, even in states where it’s been legalized because airports are considered federal property.
So, can you smoke marijuana in public?
Capitol Hill says no, but states have the right to legalize weed for medical and recreational purposes within their jurisdictions. Many have, but no state has made it legal to smoke medical marijuana anywhere in public.
States also have different rules on possession limits, age restrictions, and reciprocity regarding medical cards from other states.
What States Can You Smoke Weed in Public?
None of them.
All states that have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes have laws that prevent smoking weed in public in all public places. However, you are entitled to smoke weed on private property like your home.
Note that the laws on marijuana in public apply exclusively to smokeable marijuana. The prohibition law doesn’t apply to edibles, so if you choose to eat some cannabis gummies, you’re unlikely to get into trouble with the law.
If you have a medical card, where can you smoke and not worry about the law? Technically speaking, nowhere, but states vary on how they approach someone who decides to light up in a public place.
State vs. State Punishments
Asking, “Can I smoke weed in public as a medical card carrier?” will reveal a range of opinions on the subject. Regardless of what other sources say, it’s illegal to smoke weed in public. On the other hand, the punishments vary significantly.
If an officer catches you smoking weed in public, they will typically prosecute under possession laws in most cases. Rarely has anyone gone to jail in modern times for smoking alone.
How do states differ in their approach? Let’s examine a few states.
Marijuana is prohibited in Arizona. Moreover, possession of any amount of pot is a felony. Despite this, there are 130 marijuana dispensaries people with medical cards can shop at.
Some of the conditions that qualify patients for medical cards include cancer, HIV, Alzheimer’s disease, and more. Qualifying patients may legally possess 2.5 oz. of marijuana at once.
Wondering, “Can I smoke in public with a medical card in Kansas?”
Kansas has caught many people out from Missouri because they mistakenly believe that because Missouri has legalized weed for recreational use, the same rules apply just across the border.
Unfortunately, Kansas is one of the most prohibitive states in the country, with the Kansas House of Representatives rejecting the legalization of medical weed.
Possession of any amount in a public or private location is punished by a minimum of six months in prison.
Is it illegal to smoke weed in public in Mississippi? Unfortunately, Mississippi has reduced its penalties heavily in recent years.
Even though the state’s medical marijuana program was only expanded to cover limited medical conditions in February 2022, the authorities have taken a relatively liberal view of marijuana use and possession. If an officer catches you with less than 30 grams of marijuana, no criminal penalties apply. However, expect to pay a fine.
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Where Can You Smoke With a Medical Card?
Can you smoke in public with a medical card? If you want to stay on the right side of the law, the answer is you can never smoke in public, even with a medical card. However, if someone is caught smoking in public, possessing a medical card will prevent them from being prosecuted for illegal possession in most locales.
While officers in some states will turn a blind eye to weed use, there are no guarantees, and smoking in public can lead to severe penalties.
There are only two places you can legally smoke:
- Your own home
- A rented home whereby the landlord gives their permission for you to smoke
Even if medical marijuana has been legalized and you hold a medical card, landlords are not required to permit you to smoke within their properties. Nothing in the law compels a private landlord to allow it, which is the same rule applying to tobacco use.
How to Smoke Weed in Public
Smoking weed in public is banned, but there are exceptions for ingesting weed. Nothing prevents medical users from consuming weed in public. It’s a quirk in the law that allows you to still get high in a public place.
But can you smoke medical marijuana in public if you’re using a vape? Vaping is not technically smoking, but local ordinances may treat vaping the same way as lighting up a joint. So it’s important to ask the question, “Can I smoke medical weed in public with a vape?”
For example, California has a blanket ban on smoking and vaping in all work areas and many public spaces. Often, states will apply the same rules to vapes as cigarettes, so don’t think you whip out your vape at the mall or in a hospital setting.
Like with possession laws, the punishments for vaping and smoking in public vary from fines to receiving a criminal record.
To be safe, it’s best to restrict smoking and vaping to your home. If you really need to get high in public, maintain a store of edibles in accordance with your state’s laws.
Photo by Alex Mihai C
Is it Legal to Be High in Public?
Another area of confusion is if you decide to smoke medical weed at home and then go out in public. Can you be high in public with a medical card?
In certain conditions, being high in public is unlawful. Again, you must examine the laws in your state. For example, Florida Statutes 856.011(1) prohibits being intoxicated in a way that endangers the safety of another person or their property or causes a public disturbance.
While intoxication usually applies to alcohol consumption, it isn’t exclusive to alcohol. Intoxication can result from marijuana, alcohol, or any controlled substance. So, an officer can arrest you in Florida under the following circumstances:
- Endanger a person or their property
- Smoke marijuana in public
- Cause a public disturbance
So, can you smoke medical weed in public and get high? According to the law, no, you cannot. But can you smoke marijuana in public with a medical card and be high? Also no. There are no exceptions made for registered medical marijuana patients.
The only question is which laws you will be charged under. Some marijuana smokers have been prosecuted under possession laws, smoking in public, or being intoxicated in a public place.
While it’s unlikely that an officer will arrest you because they catch a whiff of weed on your breath or notice your red eyes, they can arrest you if you’re becoming a nuisance by being high.
Can You Smoke in Your Car with a Medical Card?
Smoking in your car is a common workaround many marijuana smokers come up with. After all, if the car is parked, you are not operating a motor vehicle. Furthermore, your private vehicle is your property, not a public place, right?
So, can you smoke weed in public with a medical card if you do it in a parked car?
It may surprise you to learn that many laws prohibit all marijuana use within vehicles, even if the vehicle is privately owned and it’s parked. Similar rules apply to alcohol and controlled substance use in much of the U.S.
Generally, you should never smoke your weed inside any vehicle. It leads us to the question, “If I have a medical card, where can I smoke?”
Stay on the right side of the law. Ensure you only smoke in your own home, and obtain the landlord’s permission, if necessary.
Get Your Medical Card Today!
Medical marijuana has brought relief to millions of Americans across the country. Wondering, “Can I smoke weed in public with a medical card?” Unfortunately, states remain extremely strict on the issue.
Your medical marijuana must only be smoked within your private, enclosed space. Smoking anywhere else is liable to get you in trouble with the law.
Before obtaining your cannabis, you must register with your state’s medical program. Then, work with the Green Health Docs team to apply for a medical marijuana card online today.
Experience the magic of medical cannabis firsthand and ensure you stay on the right side of the law.
This article has been reviewed by Dr. Anand Dugar, an anesthesiologist, pain medicine physician and the founder of Green Health Docs. Graduating from medical school in 2004 and residency in 2008, Dr. Dugar has been a licensed physician for almost 20 years and has been leading the push for medical cannabis nationwide.