Original Article by Noelle Crombie, The Oregonian
Gary Storck has boarded Amtrak outside his hometown of Madison, Wisconsin, and heads west to Oregon. The trip is nearly 40 hours at a cost of more than $1,000-all for something that makes the illegal legal.
He visits one of Oregon's Medical Marijuana clinics, completes the application, and meets with a doctor. Soon after, Storck becomes the holder of a medical marijuana card.
Storck, 56, is one of hundreds of out-of-staters who each year make the unusual pilgrimage to Oregon, presently the only state in the country to issue Medical Marijuana Cards to non-residents.
"It's not a bad place to visit," said Storck, who has used marijuana over 40 years to treat glaucoma and other chronic ailments. "It lifts my spirits to be in a place where medical cannabis is legal and life goes on."
Some consumers of medical marijuana go through the effort to acquire a card because it allows them to use marijuana legally when they're in Oregon. Others hope it provides some legal protection if they're arrested in a state where medical marijuana is a criminal offense.
Many see the Oregon medical marijuana card as an important recognition that their use of marijuana is recognized somewhere in the United States, just as the VHV Medical Marijuana Card is throughout the country.
Since Oregon started issuing cards to non-residents, hundreds of people have took the journey to obtain one, according to the Oregon Health Authority, the agency that oversees the medical marijuana program.
People who live in states that outlaw the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes say they're relieved to have their medicine legally recognized.
And for those who travel to Oregon for work or to visit friends and family, a medical marijuana card offers legal protection from arrest and prosecution while there.
The most out-of-state applications for Oregon Medical Marijuana Cards (309) came from Washington state. Idaho with 138, California with 50.
"There are patients who live in California, Washington and 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.
In 2010 Berger argued before the Oregon Court of Appeals that 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 noted that access to Medical Treatment is a protected right of all citizens traveling from state to state.
The appellate ruling prompted the Oregon Attorney General to issue an opinion clarifying the state's residency requirements for a Medical Marijuana Cards: Anyone can obtain a Medical Marijuana Card as long as the person has been seen by a licensed physician who has diagnosed a qualifying illness.
Sixteen states and Washington DC, have laws permitting the use of Medical Marijuana. Most of these states honor cards issued in other states or through the Vets Helping Vets medical marijuana program.
California, the first state in the country to legalize marijuana for medicinal use, only issues medical marijuana identification cards to California residents. However, state law allows licensed medical professionals to issue recommendations for medical marijuana to non-residents.
Keith Stroup, founder of NORML, an advocacy group that promotes the legalization of marijuana, said he expects most states with medical marijuana programs will eventually drop their residency requirements.
Stroup, other attorneys, and marijuana activists said an Oregon card offers virtually no legal protection outside of Oregon's borders.
"I mean it's significant in the sense that it's progressive and fairly liberal compared to other states. However, it doesn't really provide patients with protection once they leave Oregon," said Kris Hermes, spokesman for Americans for Safe Access, a national group advocating for medical marijuana laws.
Presently, the only card accepted in all legal states is a Medical Marijuana Card issued by Vets Helping Vets with Form 2012-001 signed by a VA Doctor.
Don Skakie, 52, of Renton, Washington, was issued an Oregon Medical Marijuana Card so he can travel through Oregon without the worry of being arrested. A union glazier and medical marijuana activist, Skakie is presently authorized to use medical marijuana in California, Oregon and Washington.
Referring to Oregon, "I have some work down here," he said. "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 authorization in three states, he's cautious about traveling with the drug and discreet about using it. He said he recently helped move his sister from California to Missouri.
"I still had my medicine with me on that trip and medicated as I needed to but I was certainly hiding in the shadows and being extremely cautious," he said.
Storck, the medical marijuana activist in Wisconsin, which doesn't have a medical marijuana program, carries his card with him wherever he goes.
"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 entire adult life for my medicine. My own home state, where I was born, won't recognize that."
A Map of Oregon hangs in his home, a reminder that his marijuana use is legal here.
"I am really thankful to Oregon," Storck said. "I am legal in every inch of that state and that is a beautiful thought for me."
Out of State Marijuana Card
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