Crossing The Border With Weed Can Mean Trouble -- The Michigan-Ohio Border, That Is

With national legalization not yet a reality, the state-by-state laws on cannabis have created enforcement issues along state borders. The latest example comes from Michigan and Ohio.

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Marijuana buyers from Ohio are making up as much as half of the total cannabis sales at a dispensary in Morenci, Michigan, right on the Ohio border. According to the Detroit Free-Press, the parking lot at the dispensary was recently full of license plates from Ohio, Indiana and Illinois.

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That’s good business for Michigan, which recently legalized cannabis, but risky business for Ohio customers, since bringing Michigan marijuana back into Ohio violates both Ohio and federal law.

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Ohio Buyers Of Michigan Marijuana Could Face A Fine If Caught

The Ohio-Michigan border offers a great example of what happens when marijuana remains illegal at the federal level and residents are forced to live under a patchwork quilt of laws that change depending on the state, county or city.

Ohio only sells medical marijuana. Michigan not only sells both medical and adult-use marijuana, but also will sell medical marijuana to people who are carrying a medical marijuana card from another state.

Ohio doesn’t have the same reciprocity, according to the Free-Press, so if an Ohio resident returns home with Michigan marijuana and gets caught, they face a misdemeanor possession charge and a $150 fine. It also violates federal law on transporting illegal drugs across state lines. Marijuana remains a Schedule I illegal drug under federal law, in the same category as both heroin and cocaine.

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But Are Police Targeting Ohio Drivers Coming Back From Michigan?

Opinions on how closely the police will look for people crossing the border with marijuana vary depending on who is talking.

Ohio State Highway Patrol Sgt. Ivan Nunez told WTOL Toledo that law enforcement is more concerned with people who consume marijuana in Michigan and then drive back across the border. 

However, Cleveland attorney Thomas Haren told the Free-Press that “law enforcement folks in northwest Ohio are really paying attention to Michigan. Make no mistake, our state highway patrol is going to be looking for Ohio plates coming back across the border.”

While it’s illegal to transport marijuana across state lines under federal law, people are more likely to run afoul of local laws. There again, it depends on where you happen to live. Cincinnati, for example, has relaxed law enforcement on marijuana possession, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. Hamilton, on the other hand, has made their laws tougher than even the state laws -- so, unfrotunately, no end appears to be in sight to provide transparency for consumers in either state.

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