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Getting a Medical Card in California

Updated on November 19, 2021.  Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer

Getting a Medical Card in CA

The CDPH Medical Marijuana Identification Card Program (MMICP) was created to verify qualified patients and caregivers. It is a voluntary program and online registry of all medical cardholders in California. The MMICP lists individuals authorized to grow, transport, possess and use medical marijuana in California. 

Getting a medical card in California requires a health check or evaluation from a certified practitioner. But you don’t have to go to a doctor’s office to get the referral; you need to apply for your medical card. You can schedule a telemedicine appointment and connect with an experienced marijuana doctor who can complete your health evaluation. 

Fees for the health evaluation you need for your California medical card vary. However, California has many doctors who will perform your health check. So, the average cost of the medical marijuana card health evaluation can be as low as $39. Most practitioners charge under $100 for the appointment and review of your health history. 

Medical Marijuana in CA as of Summer 2021

California residents who are concerned about their medical card expiring should know about Executive Order N-01-21. It was issued by Governor Newsom on January 21, 2021, and extends the expiration date of all MMIC cards currently issued. 

Suppose you have a medical card with expiration on or before March 4, 2020. In that case, the Executive Order allows your card to remain valid until after the pandemic State of Emergency is over. Or until the Governor of California changes or rescinds Executive Order N-01-21. If you are not sure about the expiration status of your card, contact your local VSB County Program for assistance.

September 10, 2021, is the last day for any new legislation to be presented and passed in 2021. And there are a number of new proposed laws that will impact both patients with a medical card in California and people who use recreational cannabis. 

The future of cannabis-infused beverages in California is looking better. There are new laws that may discourage more cannabinoid-infused retail food and beverage products. California AB 45 and SB 235 are two pieces of legislation that will restrict dietary supplements, food, beverages, cosmetics, or pet foods made with industrial hemp, extracts, or cannabinoids. As long as they are made from industrial hemp and meet state requirements. 

The new laws also protect cannabis-infused products from being blocked from sale in retail stores and chains. Unlike other states, California does not wish to ban or prohibit Delta-8 THC at the time of writing. 

Conditions

At first glance, the list of qualifying health conditions for California seems to be short and prohibitive. But there is great flexibility built into the California MMJ laws that allow practitioners and physicians to make recommendations based on patients’ needs. 

Senate Bill 94 (Chapter 27, Statues of 2017) outline the serious medical conditions that may make a patient eligible. The current qualifying health conditions to get a California medical card include:

  • HIV/AIDS
  • Anorexia 
  • Arthritis
  • Cachexia (or Wasting Syndrome)
  • Cancer
  • Chronic pain 
  • Glaucoma
  • Migraine
  • Persistent muscle spasms (including spasms caused by conditions like epilepsy and multiple sclerosis. 
  • Persistent severe nausea

The caveat for patients and physicians is the final qualifying health condition in California, which places the onus on the practitioner to decide. 

“Any other chronic or persistent medical symptom that either substantially limits a person’s ability to conduct one or more of major life activities as defined in the federal Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, or if not alleviated, may cause serious harm to the person’s safety, physical or mental health”.

In order to apply for a California medical card, you must have been diagnosed with at least one of the qualifying health conditions. Or have a letter of recommendation from your physician that indicates another set of conditions or chronic, debilitating symptoms that make you eligible for legal, medical cannabis in California. 

Caregiver Information

California defines a primary caregiver as someone responsible for the patient’s housing, health, and safety. Primary caregivers must be eighteen (18) years of age or older, be an emancipated minor, or the parent of a child under 18. 

Caregivers in the California medical marijuana program can only possess up to 8 ounces (227 grams) of dried cannabis per patient. Caregivers may also grow up to six mature cannabis plants at home and twelve (12) marijuana seedlings. 

The patient must complete the application for a primary caregiver. If the patient is already a medical cardholder in California, they will apply to add a caregiver. The application process varies a little by county. If you register as a caregiver for a bedridden patient, special accommodations can be made by your local MMJ county office.

The patient does not have to live in the same county as the caregiver. Information must be provided, however, about the caregiver’s residents or where they live. If a caregiver supports more than one qualified patient, they are legally required to live in the same county as the patients they are assisting. cannabidiol

The patient can start to register a caregiver online in a few easy steps:

  1. Log in to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) website. 
  2. Complete the Application/Renewal Form. Make sure you check off the box to include a primary caregiver. 

That will send the information to your local county program office. The patient and the designated caregiver will have to visit in person at the county program office to pay the registration fee and have a picture taken for the medical card. 

Government-issued photo identification (driver’s license, California ID card, etc.) will need to be presented at the county program office. 

FAQs

What medical marijuana is available in CA?

As the first state to legalize medical marijuana, every cannabis product category is available for patients in the state of California. 

  • Whole flower
  • Vaporizer oil and vape cartridges
  • Pre-rolls
  • Edibles
  • Tinctures
  • Topicals
  • Cannabidiol (CBD) products

If you are purchasing cannabis, you will pay a 15% cannabis excise tax on top of the 7.25% California state tax. And then, there may be up to a maximum of 1% tax charged for the local municipality. That means up to a 23.25% tax on all cannabis products purchased in a licensed retail dispensary. But adult-use products can be taxed at a higher rate than 35% to 45% tax or more. 

Caregivers and patients are no longer legally required to register with the MMICP in California. It is voluntary and not a condition of being issued your medical card or becoming a designated caregiver. 

However, if a patient gets their MMID card (cost is $100 at the time of writing), medical cardholders can save 10% tax on each purchase. You may apply for your MMID card at your local county office. 

Where do you get medical marijuanas in CA?

Did you know that if you purchase cannabis from an unlicensed dispensary, that you are breaking the law? As a patient and medical cardholder, it is your responsibility to make sure that the dispensary you visit is a certified and state-licensed location. 

How can you tell if the state licenses a dispensary in California? There was a program introduced in 2019 that encouraged dispensaries to post a QR code for customers. Then, with a quick scan on a smartphone, patients would be able to verify the dispensary. 

Who can get medical marijuana in CA?

You must be diagnosed with one of the qualifying health conditions to apply for your California medical marijuana card. If you are under the age of 18 years, you will be required to apply with a caregiver and designate purchasing and administering to a legal guardian. 

If you are aged 18-20 and ready to get your medical card, check this infographic for some tips and steps you can take to apply this week. 

Read: Getting a Medical Card When You Turn 18”.

How do you get a medical card in CA?

To get a California medical card, you will need to see a doctor. As part of the application process, you must meet with a physician to review important information from current symptoms and medications to past diagnoses and present symptoms. 

California legalized telemedicine, so getting your medical card health evaluation has never been easier. That is because you can do it online and from home. Without ever visiting a doctor’s office. 

The fee for a telemedicine health evaluation for a California medical card starts at $39.00. If you have a chronic disease and are between the ages of 18 – 20 years, you will not purchase medical or adult-use cannabis. However, you do not require a caregiver or parental consent. You can apply to get a medical card in California. 

Choose a practitioner to provide your health evaluation in-office or online through a telemedicine appointment. Click here for a list of physicians and locations. Please note that the service fee varies by practitioner. 

When did medical marijuana in CA become legal?

The medical use of marijuana has been legal in California since 1996. That is when Proposition 215 (the Compassionate Use Act) was passed. The California Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) was passed on November 8, 2016, in Proposition 64

Want to learn more about the history of marijuana legalization in California? Click here for a timeline of events and laws leading to the full legalization of cannabis for medical and adult use.

What other states accept my California medical card?

California does not have reciprocity when it comes to medical marijuana cards. That means if you are not a resident of California, you will not be able to purchase cannabis products at a medical dispensary. 

This is not a big problem for out-of-state patients who are visiting because adult use is legalized in California. But that also means patients from out of state will be paying full taxes on cannabis products instead of a discounted rate available only to medical cardholders.

However, if you have your California medical card, you may visit medical marijuana dispensaries in other states when you travel. The states that do have reciprocity for California medical cardholders are:

  • Arkansas
  • Hawaii
  • Maine
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Mexico
  • Oklahoma
  • Puerto Rico
  • Rhode Island
  • Utah
  • Washington D.C.

It is illegal to travel across any state border with medical cannabis. Whether you are a registered patient in California or a medical cardholder from another state, it is currently a felony offense to possess cannabis on any federal property, including national parks, government buildings, and airports.

How do I replace a lost or stolen California medical card?

If your California medical card was lost or stolen, you could request a replacement online. That is the good news. The bad news is that it can take up to fourteen (14) days on average to get a response from the Medical Marijuana Identification Card Program (MMICP). 

To request your replacement card, patients must:

  1. Log in to your patient account online. 
  2. Navigate to “Create a New Application.”
  3. Click on “Replacing the Patient/Caregiver Card.”
  4. Update any new information, such as a change in name or a residential address if applicable. 

If you complete your request for a replacement card, you will receive an electronic notification when your status has been updated. Or when the new card has been issued. There is a $10 fee to replace your medical card in California.

Need extra assistance? Each county in California has an office to serve patients registered in the medical cannabis program. You will need to visit the VSB County Programs locations online to find your jurisdiction. The address of the office, email, telephone number, and service hours are provided to assist patients.

What’s Coming Up?

Changes to existing laws in California do not come easily. That is because the California Legislature requires a ⅔ vote in each house of legislature (Representatives and Senate) to make an amendment. And that voted majority can be hard to realize. 

The only real significant changes planned for the 2021-2022 Legislative sessions in California pertain to cannabinoid-infused products. California lawmakers want to ban any products that are CBD-infused. Despite the fact that other states are legalizing the sale of such products. As long as the THC level is 0.30% or less. 

A quiet ban on CBD cosmetics also happened in California, and manufacturers of both food consumables, cosmetics, and other retail goods are disputing it. They feel it contradicts federal legalization that occurred after The 2018 Farm Act was passed.

The History of Medical Marijuana in CA

What starts in California rarely stays in the state. From pop culture to cannabis laws. In 1996 California was the first state to permit legalized medical cannabis. But as with most states, many constitutional amendments were required. 

1932-1954—About 60% of all Los Angeles narcotics arrests centered around cannabis. Unlike other states, California did not have to adjust significantly after the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act was passed. That made cannabis illegal at the federal level. 

But California was already instituting harsh penalties for cultivating, distributing and possessing marijuana. In fact, the state had some of the harshest penalties. Selling cannabis could result in a fifteen (15) year prison term and life imprisonment for a third cannabis-related offense. 

The hippie culture and movement had much to do with sparking the fight against prohibition. And California would go on to become the first state to legalize marijuana. 

November 1996— Proposition 215, known as the Compassionate Use Act in California, was passed. This permitted the use of medical cannabis after sweeping support of 55.6% of state residents in favor. Only 44.4% of California residents opposed the new medical marijuana program. Section 11362.5 was added to the California Health and Safety Code. 

Source Web 2021:leginfo.legislature.ca.gov

February 2003 Aptly named Senate Bill 420, drilled down to all the details needed to successfully and safely run the medical marijuana program in California. And it also set the framework for maximum purchase or possession amounts, guidelines, and requirements for physicians, and more. 

Source Web 2021: leginfo.ca.gov

October 2015—Assembly Bill 243 became law. This piece of legislation authorized the use of medical marijuana, pursuant to Proposition 215. It created the guidelines for governance and created the General Fund to the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act Fund. It also established fines and civil penalties for violations of the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act. 

Source Web 2021:leginfo.ca.gov

October 2015Assembly Bill 266 became law. It enacted the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act that would manage the commercial licensing and regulation. It also established a new branch within the CA Consumer Affairs, the Department of Consumer Affairs the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation. 

Assembly Bill 266 was directed to make the Board of Equalization work in partnership with the Department of Food and Agriculture. The two branches created tracking and reporting the cultivation, processing, and movement of cannabis in California. 

Source Web 2021: leginfo.ca.gov

October 2015— Assembly Bill 643 outlined the legal standards for physicians who would prescribe medical cannabis. This includes making it illegal for any doctor to accept payment from a business licensed under the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act. It also gave counties in California the right to levy additional taxes on sales of cannabis in their jurisdiction. And on business license registrations and other services provided to cannabis commercial entities. 

Source Web 2021:leginfo.ca.gov

December 2016— Initiatives 15-0103 was the Submission of Amendment to Statewide Initiative Measure – Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act. This is where public comments about legalizing adult use in the state of California can be read. Both advocates in support and those opposed had the opportunity to express their concerns.

In the Initiatives 15-0103, the regulation of hemp and hemp products was also outlined. It set forth a method to test hemp to ensure the potency of 0.30% THC or less. It also directs the California Department of Agriculture to destroy (burn) any cannabidiol (CBD) plants that are higher potency than the regulated limit. Many critics feel that California has over-regulated the hemp industry, in contrast to bringing medical and recreational cannabis to residents. 

Source Web 2021:leginfo.ca.gov

 

 

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California Department of Public Health
Medical Marijuana Identification Card Program
MS 5202
P.O. Box 997377
Sacramento, CA 95899-7377
Phone: (916) 552-8600
Fax: (916) 440-5591
Email: mmpinfo@cdph.ca.gov
Website: California Medical Marijuana Program

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California Qualification

Patients suffering from a wide range of symptoms are eligible to obtain medical marijuana in California. These include:

  • Anxiety
  • Cancer
  • Arthritis
  • any other condition or illness that is considered chronic, persistent and debilitating.

Our section on Who Qualifies for Marijuana in California provides detailed information on qualification guidelines in the state, as well as restrictions on age and much more.

California Medical Marijuana Telemedicine Services Online

There are only five states that don’t require medical cannabis patients to go to a doctor’s office to visit with recommending physicians, and California is one of them. Physicians and patients are allowed to establish a relationship through telemedicine. Qualified patients, in California, may now choose to see a marijuana doctor online instead of in-person, using medical marijuana telemedicine services for the purpose of obtaining a California medical marijuana evaluation:

see a marijuana doctor online and on-demand, via the telemedicine portal, now

The State of California has a legalized medical marijuana program, which allows patients to receive a medical marijuana recommendation from a certified physician, and apply for a state-issued California Medical Marijuana ID Card, permitting the patient to grow and/or purchase marijuana for medicinal use, as per California state guidelines.

Since the California medical marijuana program is still changing their laws and new California medical marijuana laws are being enacted on a regular basis, please be sure to visit our site frequently to get the most updated laws as it pertains to the California medical marijuana program. Please click a corresponding link to find out more about California’s Medical Marijuana Program. We have compiled the following California medical marijuana index of information to serve as a medical library to our users for legal reference of California’s laws, guidelines and program details regarding medical cannabis use in California.

Please note: In order to become a legal medical marijuana patient you must first have a qualifying condition as outlined by the department of health services and/or department of justice. For a comprehensive list of California’s qualifying medical marijuana conditions, please visit our qualifying conditions section located on the top of our menu under “legal states”.

California Medical Marijuana Laws

One of the more interesting facts about California medical marijuana laws is that parolees and people on probation may be able to use medicinal cannabis in some instances as long as a judge allows it. Another interesting fact is that some airports are relatively lenient regarding medicinal weed, while others are extremely strict.

If you would like more information, check out our section on California’s Full Medical Marijuana Laws so you are as informed as possible.

California Medical Marijuana Card

Even though possession of a small amount of weed was legalized in 2016, Californians won’t be able to purchase recreational weed until recreational dispensary licenses are issued. This wasn’t expected to occur until late 2017 at the earliest.

In the meantime, patients wishing to legally purchase pot must first obtain a medical marijuana card. Our California Medical Marijuana Card section provides in-depth information on how the process of getting a card works.

California Medical Marijuana Facts

Even though medical marijuana in California is legal, that doesn’t mean patients are exempt from drug testing by their employers. Companies still have the right to fire patients who test positive for weed, even if they are legally allowed to use if for medical reasons.

MarijuanaDoctors.com offers a California Medical Marijuana Facts section that will help you separate facts from fiction so you are completely informed regarding the issue of cannabis use in the state.

Doctors in California

Learn more about medical marijuana doctors in California by checking out our listings in your city:

Dispensaries in California

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