If you live in California, you may wonder if it's worth going through the process of getting cleared to grow, possess, or buy medical marijuana in a state where recreational use is legal. There are at least a couple of good reasons if you have one of the qualifying conditions to become a medical patient in the Golden State.
Medical use of marijuana has been legal since the 1996 passage of Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act. After Proposition 64 in 2016 legalized adult-use marijuana, the legislature passed the passed the Medical and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA), creating a combined regulatory system for both medical and recreational marijuana.
While adults can buy marijuana just about anywhere in the state, patients with a doctor's recommendation can grow or possess larger quantities of marijuana than recreational users. MAUCRSA enables adults 21 and older to possess up to 1 ounce, or 28.5 grams of flower, up to 8 grams of concentrate and up to six living cannabis plants in their private residence. A qualified patient or primary caregiver may possess up to 8 ounces, or 227 grams, of dried marijuana per qualified patient, and may maintain up to six mature or 12 immature marijuana plants.
A doctor's recommendation is required for those younger than 21 to purchase marijuana, and a county-issued medical marijuana ID card gives buyers a tax exemption on purchases. Most medical marijuana doctors can be found online.
California's Qualifying Conditions
- Cachexia, or wasting syndrome
- Chronic pain
- Persistent muscle spasms, including spasms associated with multiple sclerosis
- Seizures, including seizures associated with epilepsy
- Severe nausea
- Any other chronic or persistent medical symptom that either substantially limits the ability of the person to conduct a major life activity as defined in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, or if not alleviated, may cause serious harm to the patient's safety or physical or mental health.
Applying for a Medical Card in California
Patients must get a Medical Marijuana Identification Card (MMIC) through a county program, not through an attending physician or an evaluation center. The county offices and contact information page provides the contact information for the MMIC program in each participating county.
Patients must reside in the county where their application is submitted and fill out an Application/Renewal Form. Counties require a copy of a medical recommendation, proof of identity – that can be a valid California Department of Motor Vehicle driver's license, ID card or other government-issued photo ID card – and proof of residency, such as a rental or mortgage agreement, utility bill, or California DMV motor vehicle registration. Fees required by county programs vary, but cannot exceed $100.
Medi-Cal recipients receive a 50 percent fee reduction, and fees are waived for low-income patients participating in the County Medical Services Program. Counties have 30 days to verify an application and five days to make the MMIC available. Minors can apply as a patient or caregiver under certain conditions, and minors can apply for themselves as qualified patients if they are lawfully emancipated or have declared self-sufficiency status.
Appointing a Caregiver
A primary caregiver is defined as someone who is responsible for the housing, health, or safety of a qualified patient. Primary caregivers must be at least 18 years old or be an emancipated minor or the parent of a minor child who is a qualified patient. Primary caregivers must apply in person along with the patient, and provide proof of identity. Those with more than one qualified patient must reside in the same county. Patients or primary caregiver may have no more than 8 ounces, or 227 grams, of dried marijuana per qualified patient and may maintain up to six mature or 12 immature marijuana plants.
Acquiring Your Medicine
Patients can grow their own marijuana, or purchase it from licensed dispensaries. It's illegal to sell without a license. Medical marijuana dispensaries can be found as far north as Eureka to as far south as San Diego.
Rules for Out-of-State Patients
State law allows for non-resident adults who have a valid driver's license, state ID, or federal ID to purchase marijuana for recreational use. Both resident and non-resident patients need a valid doctor's recommendation from a physician licensed in California to purchase medical cannabis products in California. Neither medical nor adult-use cannabis are allowed to cross state borders, so cannabis cannot go into or be taken out of California.