Updated on November 19, 2021. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
As the first state to legalize medical marijuana, every cannabis product category is available for patients in the state of California.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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 2015— Assembly 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
California Department of Public Health
Medical Marijuana Identification Card Program
P.O. Box 997377
Sacramento, CA 95899-7377
Phone: (916) 552-8600
Fax: (916) 440-5591
Website: California Medical Marijuana Program
Patients suffering from a wide range of symptoms are eligible to obtain medical marijuana in California. These include:
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.