How to Get a California Medical Marijuana Card

Overview
As one of the first states to ratify medical marijuana use, many Californians with chronic pain can rely on cannabis. However, there are still specific rules and requirements. Check out our guide to California Medical Marijuana Card program to determine if you qualify. Of course, recreational marijuana is also legal in CA, so it is up to each individual to decide if they want to apply for MMJ.
State Program
Approved on
November 5, 1996
Online Application
YES, BUT ONLY VIA A THIRD-PARTY SITE
MD Evaluation
Required
Yes
Card Validity
12Months
Patient
Registry Fee
$100
Phone:
(916) 552-8600
Official Gov Site:
cdph.ca.gov

CONSULTATION FEE RANGE

  • $39 – $200

MMJ PURCHASING LIMITS

  •  A MAXIMUM OF EIGHT OUNCES OF DRIED CANNABIS

HOME CULTIVATION?

  • UP TO 12 PLANTS, A MAXIMUM OF SIX PLANTS CAN BE MATURE

MINIMUM AGE LIMIT

  • 18

The Golden State is a pioneer of medical marijuana, and it all started with Proposition 215 in 1996. Also known as the Compassionate Use Act, it ensured that California became the first American state to legalize medicinal marijuana in the modern era. In 2003, Senate Bill 420 established an ID card system for MMJ cardholders.

For years, campaigners tried to get cannabis completely legalized in California. However, they were dealt a blow in 2010 when Proposition 19 was defeated. However, things changed after states such as Oregon and Washington allowed recreational cannabis use. California followed suit in November 2016 when Proposition 64 passed, with 57% of voters saying “yes” to adult-use cannabis.

On January 1, 2018, marijuana use officially became legal in California for all residents aged 21+. You might think there is no point in going through the MMJ card application process anymore, but there are numerous benefits. Before showing you how to get a CA medical card, let’s take a quick look at the state’s laws regarding the plant.

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California Medical Marijuana Laws

It is unwise to assume that because California now allows adult-use marijuana, it offers a free-for-all with little consequences. While it is legal to buy and possess up to an ounce of cannabis without an MMJ card if you’re 21+, carrying 28.5+ grams is a misdemeanor that could result in a six-month jail term. The potential penalty is the same if you possess 8+ grams of concentrate, grow more than six plants, or sell any amount without the requisite licensing.

You only enter felony territory if you’re 18+ and sell marijuana to someone aged 17 or younger. If you want to buy and possess more cannabis, you need to check and see if you have one of the qualifying medical conditions to become eligible for medicinal cannabis. MMJ cardholders can purchase a significantly higher amount of weed than their adult-use counterparts.

Why Get a California Medical Marijuana Card When Recreational Cannabis Is Legal?

Although marijuana is now legal for recreational use in California, it is still worth your while to get an MMJ card. You are allowed to possess far more than one ounce and can grow more than six plants. You also have access to more potent cannabis and save money by not paying sales tax. It is also a fact that medical marijuana dispensaries often have sales to entice MMJ cardholders into the store.

Do you need marijuana for a medical condition but are not yet 21? If so, you are not permitted to purchase it recreationally, but you can use marijuana with an MMJ card if aged 18+. Furthermore, California has laws allowing minors to access weed for medicinal purposes. They need the assistance of a caregiver, who may be a parent or legal guardian.

Cannabis is also cheaper if you have an MMJ card because you are exposed to lower tax rates. Local and excise taxes may still apply. However, you are exempt from state sales tax if you have a state-issued medical marijuana ID card.

Best of all, MMJ cardholders have greater access to more potent weed and can grow more at home too.

In California, recreational dispensaries are limited to 1,000 mg of cannabinoids per package of a lotion or a tincture. In contrast, medical dispensaries can sell items with up to 2,000 mg of cannabinoids. A law also limits recreational edibles to 100mg of THC per package and 10mg per serving. We outline the different growing limits in the FAQ section.

How to Get a Medical Marijuana Card in California

Now that you know the benefits, let’s find out how to apply for a medical marijuana card in California.

california medical marijuana card

Step 1 – Get in Touch with a CA Healthcare Provider

Technology has advanced in California to the point where you no longer need to go down the traditional appointment route. However, it is still possible to find a doctor and chat face-to-face.

Step 2 – Schedule a Consultation

You can schedule an appointment with a physician who will examine you and decide if you are eligible. Please go to the Qualifying Conditions section to see if your ailment is on the list. During the consultation, the physician will ask about your medical condition and decide whether MMJ will benefit you. If they believe you’re eligible, they’ll provide the written certification you need to complete the application.

Step 3 – Complete the Application Form

You must provide proof of ID; a government or state-issued ID card or a driver’s license is acceptable. Only residents of the state of California can apply, and they must provide proof of residency. You can meet the criteria via a mortgage or rental agreement, utility bill, or DMV motor vehicle registration.

Once you have all of the above information, complete the application form. Please ensure you have the doctor’s written certification at this stage. Next, you must apply at your County Program in person to receive your Medical Marijuana Identification Card (MMIC).

Step 4 – Visit a Dispensary

Once you receive your card in the mail, you can visit one of the many dispensaries in CA.

However, there’s no need to proceed in this manner when there are many convenient online options.

How to Get a California Medical Marijuana Card Using an Online Service

Interestingly, there is no way to apply online via an official state portal. However, numerous third-party providers can help you out. Instead of sending form CDPH 9042 to your county’s health department, you can use a service such as Heally, NuggMD, Leafwell, or Veriheal.

After creating an account, you’re connected with a licensed physician in the state of California. You discuss your issues with the doctor during the consultation and download the recommendation if you’re approved, with a hard copy arriving a few days later. The company then sends your card in the mail on the same day. You should receive it within a few business days.

After receiving the recommendation letter, you get a unique 7-character ID code registered to the state’s medical marijuana program. You can use the recommendation to purchase marijuana from a licensed dispensary.

If you get the standard recommendation letter online, you can enter medical marijuana dispensaries without trouble. However, some dispensaries prefer it if consumers have the letter and the MMIC. You can pay extra for the Premium Card, which ensures you get the letter and MMIC. It also allows you to avail of a Grower’s recommendation card.

Who Can Apply for a Medical Marijuana Card in CA?

You must be 18+, a resident of California, and have a qualifying medical condition to apply for a medical marijuana card in CA.

Cost of MMJ Card in CA

Getting your recommendation online is also great for your bank balance as you can significantly cut the medical marijuana card cost in CA. Most providers charge less than $50 for their service. In contrast, your county program can charge more, although there’s a $100 cap.  Medi-Cal beneficiaries receive a 50% reduction, so the maximum application fee is $50 for such individuals.

If you do things the old-fashioned way, you also have to pay a physician’s fee, which varies significantly.

CA MMJ Card Qualifying Conditions

According to the state’s medical marijuana law, you are eligible for an MMJ card if you have one of the following CA medical marijuana card qualifying conditions:

  • Cancer
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Side effects of radiation therapy
  • Glaucoma
  • Arthritis
  • Anxiety
  • Chronic pain
  • Migraine headaches
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Severe nausea
  • Anorexia
  • Cachexia, or wasting syndrome
  • Any persistent or chronic medical symptom that causes serious harm to your mental or physical health if not treated

You are also possibly eligible if you have a condition limiting your ability to carry out a “major life activity” such as moving or eating. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 defines this stipulation.

You may also receive a recommendation for chronic fatigue syndrome or depression. California is among the most reasonable states for handing out medical marijuana cards. Therefore, you should have little difficulty receiving approval if you have one of the above conditions.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Medical Marijuana Card in CA?

Going down the old-school route means you will wait a while to buy. Your county can take up to 30 days to verify your application, and it could take up to 35 days to receive your MMIC. It is valid for up to a year.

Fortunately, California residents no longer need to go through a lengthy application process. Thanks to the various online services available, getting your MMIC in minutes is possible.

How to Renew My California Medical Card?

A California medical marijuana card is valid for 12 months, so you need to renew it before the expiry date. Fortunately, it is extremely easy to complete the process online, especially since it involves virtually the same steps as getting your card for the first time. Schedule an online consultation with a licensed physician and go through the evaluation process quickly.

Some companies let you renew your MMJ card for just $39. Once you have the physician’s certification, you’re ready to once again complete the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Medical Marijuana Program Renewal/Application Form (CDPH 9042).

Please note that renewal takes up to 30 days if you go down the old-fashioned route, so make sure you begin the process at least a month before your card expires. However, use a company like NuggMD or Veriheal, and you’ll receive your card in about 3-5 business days.

Other Information on the CA Medical Marijuana License Process

Here is other relevant information relating to the California MMJ program.

What Types of Cannabis Can I Purchase in CA?

Whether you have an MMJ card or are a recreational user, you have a myriad of options. Dispensaries in California sell marijuana flower, concentrates, edibles, lotions, patches, tinctures, and much more.

Can I Register My Child for Medical Marijuana in CA?

Yes, a minor (aged 17 or less) can apply as an MMJ patient in California. However, such applicants are only eligible if they have the consent of a parent or legal guardian who also acts as a caregiver.

Where Can I Purchase MMJ in California?

CA has almost 900 licensed dispensaries, although they serve a huge customer base. It is also worth noting that the state is home to almost 3,000 unlicensed dispensaries! Therefore, please ensure that the dispensary you use is fully licensed within the state.

How Much Cannabis Can I Buy & Possess?

MMJ cardholders can possess and transport up to eight ounces of dried marijuana (check your county for confirmation).

Can You Grow Marijuana in California with a Medical Marijuana Card?

MMJ cardholders can grow a maximum of 12 plants, six of which can be mature. It is possible to cultivate even more if they have a doctor’s recommendation, which states that the patient needs to produce more to meet their reasonable medical needs. The amount you can grow and possess as an MMJ cardholder varies according to where you live.

Then there is the Grower’s Recommendation Card, the golden marijuana ticket in California. It allows the holder to grow up to 99 plants for personal use! However, be wary when doing this because the law can change anytime.

It is also essential to check your local area for more details on what you can grow. Finally, please note that the grower’s recommendation does NOT equate to a “get out of jail free” card. It merely gives you defense for growing as much as you need. You also can’t sell cannabis without a specific license!

In contrast, recreational users can grow a maximum of six plants at home.

Where Can I Use My MMJ?

You can only use your marijuana in a private space, as public smoking remains prohibited. Smoking or vaping in a non-smoking area results in an immediate $100 fine. However, cities such as San Francisco have onsite consumption licenses.

You are also not allowed to smoke marijuana within 1,000 feet of a youth center (when kids are present), a daycare center, or a school. Using MMJ in a motor vehicle remains illegal, even if you are only a passenger. If you use marijuana or have an open container with cannabis while on a plane or boat, you receive a fine. It is even against the law to cycle while under the influence of marijuana in California.

Does California Accept Out-of-State MMJ Cards?

No. California does not accept recommendations from other states. Therefore, if you are a Colorado resident, for example, and have an MMJ card, you can’t purchase weed from a Golden State medical dispensary.

A tourist can obtain a medical marijuana identification card in California. However, they must provide a licensed doctor’s recommendation like everyone else. They also have to show an accepted form of identification. Places like Venice Beach have developed a reputation for making it extremely easy to get an MMJ card, even if you’re a non-California resident.

If you don’t want to go through the MMJ application process, you’re still free to buy up to 28.5 grams as a tourist if you’re 21+.

What Are the Caregiver Rules?

You can hire a caregiver to help you buy or use MMJ as long as they meet the following criteria:

  • They must be at least 18 years of age. An exception is if they are an emancipated minor or the parent of a minor who is a qualified patient.
  • Caregivers with more than one patient must reside in the same county as you.
  • They can have up to eight ounces and are subject to the same growing rules.

Primary caregivers must apply in person with the patient and provide proof of ID.

What If I Lose My Medical Card in California?

If you lose your MMJ card, you must contact your county program to discover how to replace it.

When Did Medical Marijuana in California Become Legal?

California was the first state to allow legal, medical marijuana in the modern era. After a lengthy campaign by cannabis activists, who suffered many setbacks, CA finally permitted MMJ via Proposition 215 in 1996. However, it wasn’t until Senate Bill 420 was passed in 2003 that the program established an ID card system for medical marijuana patients.

However, despite being the first American state to permit MMJ, California didn’t budge on recreational marijuana for two decades. Finally, in 2016, Proposition 64 passed into law, allowing adults aged 21+ to buy and possess up to an ounce of marijuana. Legal sales began on January 1, 2018.

How to Get a Medical Marijuana Card in Los Angeles

If you live in Los Angeles, you should have no issues finding a cannabis-friendly physician. However, it is quicker and easier to schedule an online consultation. Once you receive your MMJ card, there are many dispensaries in the Los Angeles area to choose from.

MMJ Card for Veterans in CA

In March 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 34 into law. It allows cannabis businesses to give tax-free marijuana to low-income patients. Several programs, such as Weed for Warriors, offer marijuana donations to veterans with a doctor’s recommendation for MMJ.

Final Thoughts on Getting a California Medical Marijuana Card

California makes it extremely easy for people to obtain a medical marijuana card. There is no longer any need to go through the laborious process of applying via your county health department. Numerous reputable companies enable you to schedule an online consultation with a doctor and receive your recommendation. Then they send your card in the mail rapidly. The entire process costs less than $50.

It is worth getting the MMJ card if you require a large amount of cannabis since the limit for medical patients is eight ounces. If you don’t want to apply for the card and are aged 21+, you can walk into a dispensary with your ID and buy up to 28.5 grams of marijuana or eight grams of concentrate.

Need a Medical Marijuana Card ?

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