In Growing Marijuana in California – CA Cannabis State Laws (2021) we gave a brief overview on how Californians can apply to their state’s medical marijuana program. Recreational marijuana has been legal in the Golden State since 2016 but there are certain cases where patients may still want to register for a medical marijuana card.
Overview of Medical Marijuana in California
In 1996, more than half of California voted in favor of Proposition 215, a ballot initiative that legalized the use of medical marijuana in the state. You can read up on the law here: Proposition 215 (Compassionate Use Act)
California’s medical marijuana law allows registered patients and their caregivers to possess up to 8 ounces and cultivate up to 6 mature or twelve 12 immature marijuana plants. To qualify, a patient must have at least one of the following conditions:
- Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS)
- Cachexia (wasting syndrome)
- Chronic pain
- Severe nausea
- Persistent muscle spasms (for example, spasms caused by multiple sclerosis)
- Seizures (for example, epileptic seizures)
If your condition is not listed above, you may still apply for an MMJ card as long as your physician determines that you need medical cannabis to address chronic or persistent symptoms that substantially limit your ability to conduct major life activities and cause serious harm to your safety, physical health or mental health.
Even minors afflicted with a condition that need medical marijuana can register for the program, as long as they do so with the help of their parents or legal guardians. However, those who are lawfully emancipated or have declared self-sufficiency status may apply for themselves. They may even act as their own caregiver, however, some counties may require additional documents.
Patients who are disabled or under 18 may also have a designated caregiver who may assist in buying, dispensing, and cultivating marijuana. A caregiver must be a resident of California over the age of 18 years and not the patient’s physician. Some counties may require caregivers to be a resident of the same county as the patient.
Under the state’s Compassionate Use Act, a caregiver is someone who:
- Is requested by the patient to be their caregiver
- Is consistently responsible for the patient’s housing, health, and safety
- Provides care that is different from what is given to the patient
- Takes care of the patient at or before the time they assumed responsibility for assisting with medical marijuana
- Is not the physician of the patient
Why should you get a medical marijuana card in California?
Even though recreational marijuana is legal in California and patients and caregivers are not required to get an MMICP to possess, buy, and grow marijuana. However, there are a few reasons why patients may still want to register into the medical marijuana program, particularly:
- Higher possession, purchase and cultivation limits on your physician’s recommendation
- Additional legal protection when possessing more than the recreational limit
- Exemption from retail sales tax
- It is the only way for a minor patient to use marijuana
How to get a medical marijuana card in California
The process of applying for an MMIC may vary from one county to another. In most cases, you have to submit your completed application form and requirements to your county’s health department in person.
As mentioned previously, getting a medical marijuana card in California is totally voluntary. In fact, those under 21 can legally use medical marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation and those under 18, the consent of a parent. Caregivers do not need to apply for an MMJ card but it will serve as additional legal protection since they typically transport larger quantities of marijuana, especially if they are providing care for more than one patient. In most California counties, patients will have to bring their designated caregiver to the county health department to get them registered.
- Get a recommendation from your doctor.
- Fill out the Medical Marijuana Program Application/Renewal form from the California Department of Public Health website.
- Submit the completed form along with all the necessary requirements, which can include the following:
- A valid government-issued photo ID (can be a California Driver’s License, State ID Card, US Passport, or Veteran’s Administration ID Card)
- A photo taken at the county’s program office
- Proof of residency
- Pay the corresponding fees at the county health department.
- Fill up the section for Caregivers on the Medical Marijuana Program Application/Renewal form.
- Appear with the patient if needed at the county health office.
It can take up to 35 days for your application to get approved. Both patient and caregiver cards are valid for one year. The cost of registration and renewals will vary per county but it will be around $100 on the average. If your application is denied, you can file an appeal by submitting a completely filled out Denial Appeals Application at no cost.
Frequently Asked Questions on Getting a California Medical Marijuana Card
Residents of California don’t really need a medical marijuana card to possess, purchase, and grow cannabis. However, being a registered patient in the state’s medical marijuana program is the only way a minor can legally medicate with cannabis. An MMJ card also provides additional legal protection for patients who may need to possess an amount exceeding the legal limit. Patients also do not need to pay retail sales tax on medical marijuana.
Patients in California with at least one of the qualifying conditions below are eligible for a medical marijuana card:
Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS)
Cachexia (wasting syndrome)
Persistent muscle spasms (for example, spasms caused by multiple sclerosis)
Seizures (for example, epileptic seizures)
Your doctor can also recommend medical cannabis for chronic or persistent symptoms that substantially limit your ability to conduct major life activities and cause serious harm to your safety, physical health or mental health.
Patients may need to apply for a medical marijuana card in California if they are a minor or have a condition that needs an amount that exceeds the recreational limit. A medical marijuana card may also serve as additional legal protection for patients caught in possession of an amount exceeding the legal limit.
After you submit your completed application form and requirements for a California medical marijuana card, it should be processed within 35 days.
The cost of a medical marijuana card in California is on the average around $100 but may go up to $200 in certain counties.
Patients registered in California’s medical marijuana may grow as many plants as their condition requires based on the recommendation of their doctor.
Patients registered in California’s medical marijuana program can possess up to 8 ounces of cannabis or as much as their condition requires based on the recommendation of their doctor.
If you’re a patient with a qualifying condition in California, you may only want to spend for an MMJ card if you need an amount of cannabis that exceeds the recreational limit, or you are under 18, or you are a caregiver for more than one patient and need to transport greater amounts of marijuana. Although you don’t need to pay retail sales tax on medical marijuana, the cost of registration into the California MMICP can go up to $200 in some counties, which is hardly worth it considering the generous recreational limit of an ounce for possession and 6 plants for cultivation.