California Medical Marijuana Card
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California was the first U.S. state to pass medical marijuana legislation with the Compassionate Use Act of 1996. Residents with qualifying medical conditions have been able to treat them using cannabis since 1996. As societal attitudes have evolved, California has continued to make medicinal cannabis more accessible to its residents.
The medical community's understanding of marijuana's treatment value has grown over the last 25 years. In response to that evolving knowledge, California expanded its list of qualifying conditions and the scope of residents’ access to medical cannabis.
Today, Californians who require higher doses or larger supplies of cannabis can apply for medical marijuana cards with a doctor's recommendation. These MMJ cards allow them to purchase and possess more cannabis than they’d normally be able to under the state’s recreational marijuana laws.
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What is California Medical Marijuana Card?
If you have a qualifying medical condition and need more cannabis than the current recreational cannabis possession limits allow, a healthcare provider can issue you a recommendation for cannabis for medical use. That form will permit you to exceed the state’s recreational possession limits and obtain a card through the state’s Medical Marijuana Identification Card Program (MMICP).
California recognizes that certain medical conditions require higher amounts of cannabis when it comes to symptom management. That’s why a resident with a recommendation from a marijuana doctor can:
- Purchase more cannabis at a single time from state dispensaries
- Purchase cannabis products with higher levels of THC
- Legally possess more cannabis
- Cultivate more plants in their home
Medical Marijuana Doctors in California
You can only apply for a medical marijuana card after you obtain a written medical marijuana recommendation. The doctor issuing the recommendation must conduct an evaluation and conclude that you have a serious medical condition with symptoms that will respond to cannabis.
The consultation will involve questions about your medical history and the nature of your symptoms. The doctor will also answer any questions you may have about treatment with cannabis. Once they determine that you will benefit from medical cannabis, they will issue you a written recommendation.
Any licensed doctor of medicine, doctor of osteopathy, or podiatrist in good standing with the state of California can issue a recommendation for potential cannabis patients. However, every physician is not required to do so.
How to Find a California Medical Marijuana Doctor?
Doctors with experience recommending medical marijuana understand its therapeutic benefits and are the most qualified to make recommendations for it. They take the time to understand the needs, expectations, and concerns of their patients so that they can determine whether they’d make good cannabis users.
The FDA does not yet recognize cannabis as a legitimate medical treatment. However, patients have used it for decades, and to great effect. In that time, it has proven beneficial for many physical and psychological conditions.
Oncologists, primary care physicians, palliative care specialists, and other types of specialists can all be medical marijuana doctors. Regardless of your medical marijuana doctor’s field, they’re sure to be well-informed and knowledgeable about cannabis’s medicinal value.
California Medical Marijuana Application
A physician can issue a recommendation for medical marijuana to any qualified California resident. While state law dictates eligibility and safety requirements, county health departments process marijuana card applications and issue medical marijuana identification cards. Contact your local health department to clarify its application requirements before starting this process. Such requirements can vary from county to county.
The first step in the application process is to obtain a written recommendation from a valid California physician. You must then complete a medical marijuana program application form, which can be downloaded from the California Department of Public Health’s website.
In addition to the completed form, your application packet must include:
- A copy of the medical recommendation issued by your doctor
- A copy of your proof of identity--typically a driver’s license or other government-issued ID (minors must submit a copy of their birth certificate)
- A copy of your proof of residency that shows your name and current address--typically a mortgage document, lease agreement, utility bill, or California motor vehicle registration
You must submit these documents in person to your county's health department, pay the application fee, and have your photo taken for your marijuana card. Applications are processed within 35 days.
How to Get a Medical Marijuana Card in California
The process of obtaining a card varies by county of residence. Contact your local health officials to clarify the requirements for your application.
Call the Sanctuary to Schedule a Visit with a Medical Marijuana Doctor
You cannot move forward with your application for a card until you obtain a written recommendation from a medical marijuana doctor. The Sanctuary can connect you with licensed California providers who are up to date on all applicable regulations. They will be able to answer your questions about medical marijuana.
Your provider will conduct a brief yet comprehensive examination to confirm your suitability for medical marijuana and explain its benefits, risks, and possible side effects so you understand how cannabis will impact your medical condition.
Gather Supporting Documents
Next, you’ll need to download and complete the application from the Department of Public Health's website. A complete packet requires copies of your physician recommendation, proof of identity, and proof of residence. Ensure all of your copies are clear and legible. Also, make sure you keep the original copy of your physician's recommendation.
If you’re a minor, be sure to check with your local health department to verify its documentation requirements for minors. Eligible caregivers must also complete an application and provide supporting documents.
Submit Application to Your County Health Department
Next, you must schedule an appointment with your county's health department. Either the qualifying patient or their caregiver must be physically present at the appointment. The county’s representative will collect the application fee and take a photograph for your ID.
Wait for Approval
The county will verify your application and make its determination within 30 days of receiving it. They must alert you of denial or issue your card within five days of that determination. Contact the county if you do not receive your marijuana card or denial by mail within 35 days of submitting your application.
The best way to receive prompt approval is by ensuring that your application is accurate and complete when you submit it.
Medical Marijuana in California
Medical marijuana is available in California for a variety of medical conditions. It's crucial to talk to your doctor about your symptoms because some chronic ones that don't respond to medical treatment may qualify you for California's medical marijuana program.
Call or text (484) 346-5140 with any questions and to schedule your evaluation!
California Qualifying Conditions
Under California law, your physician can recommend cannabis to help you manage the symptoms of any of these medical conditions:
Chronic or persistent medical conditions whose symptoms significantly limit your daily functioning or seriously affect your safety, physical health, or mental health can also qualify you for medical marijuana treatment.
Cannabis is also often recommended for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, insomnia, and substance abuse. Consult a medical marijuana doctor if you believe cannabis can alleviate the symptoms of your medical condition(s).
California Medical Marijuana Laws
California restricts recreational marijuana to 1 ounce of dried leaf or 8 grams of concentrate. Qualified patients and their caregivers can possess up to 8 ounces of dried marijuana at a time. Keep in mind that your county may impose different restrictions. Be sure to verify the allowable amount you can possess when submitting your application.
Authorized medical marijuana users are also able to cultivate up to 6 mature or 12 immature marijuana plants at one time. Many communities have zoning ordinances governing grow sites, and some require permits to cultivate marijuana.
Check your local laws before you begin planting marijuana plants. In addition, since landlords are not required to permit tenants to cultivate in rental properties, verify the terms of your lease agreement before you start growing plants in your apartment.
California marijuana consumption laws prohibit everyone, including medicinal users, from smoking cannabis anywhere tobacco smoking is illegal. You cannot smoke cannabis within 1,000 feet of a school, daycare center, or youth center when children are present.
Owners can prohibit cannabis use on private property, including apartments. Check your lease agreement before smoking cannabis in your apartment.
Cannabis cannot be smoked or used by drivers or passengers in a motor vehicle. Marijuana must be transported in a sealed container or in the vehicle's trunk.
California Public Consumption Laws
California marijuana ordinances state that you can consume marijuana on private property with the permission of the owner. That said, patients cannot smoke anywhere that it is illegal to smoke tobacco or within 1,000 feet of a school, daycare center, or youth center if children are present. Additionally, property owners like landlords can ban the use of cannabis products on their premises, regardless of whether it’s for medical or personal use.
According to federal law (the Controlled Substances Act), it is illegal to use cannabis on federal land like national parks and courthouses.
California Cannabis DUI Laws
California law enforcement officers are allowed to stop drivers suspected of impaired driving. There is no legal limit for cannabis that qualifies as a DUI. Law enforcement only needs to prove that marijuana impaired the driver while they operated the vehicle. The state has implied consent for drug testing.
First-time infractions are subject to 96 hours to six months in jail, a fine of $390 to $1,000, and a six-month suspended license. Minimum punishments increase with subsequent violations. Cardholders are not exempt from California DUI laws.
California Caregiver Laws
California allows patients to designate a primary caregiver to purchase and possess medical marijuana on their behalf. To qualify as a primary caregiver, you must be consistently responsible for the housing, health, or safety of a qualifying medical marijuana patient.
Primary caregivers must be at least 18 years old, an emancipated minor, or the parent of a child who is a qualified patient. Owners and employees of licensed inpatient clinics, long-term care facilities, hospices, or home health agencies may apply to be caregivers.
California Medical Marijuana Card Renewal
Patients' medical marijuana cards are valid for one year from the date of their issuance. The expiration date of your card will appear on your card. Caregivers’ cards expire when their qualifying patient's cards expire, even if that date happens to be less than one year from the card’s issuance.
The renewal process is the same as the initial application process. Your county may require supplemental medical records in addition to photo identification and proof of residency. Check with your local health department to verify its requirements.
Where Can You Buy California Medical Marijuana?
The Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) licenses and regulates marijuana retailers. Only authorized facilities sell medical-grade cannabis subject to safety and quality standards. Locations include:
Frequently Asked Questions
The total cost of your card will depend on your county of residence. While California sets the laws and regulations at the state level, card applications are handled by each county government. The maximum you can pay in California is $100. If you are Medi-Cal eligible, the maximum cost is $50.
Anyone over 18 years old can apply for a medical marijuana card as a qualified patient or serve as a caregiver for a qualified patient.
Patients under 18 can obtain a medical marijuana card from their county with their parent or legal guardian's consent. Guardians of qualified minors may apply as primary caregivers.
A patient under 18 can apply for a card as a qualified patient without a caregiver if they are legally emancipated or declare self-sufficiency status. County health departments may require additional documentation in such cases.
Yes--you must apply for your card from the county in which you reside. Your application will require proof of residency. Check with your local government to verify its acceptable forms of residence verification.
It depends. Arizona, Arkansas, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Utah accept out-of-state medical marijuana cards to varying legal extents.
When traveling, you must follow the regulations and possession limits of the state(s) you visit, not California’s. Research these laws before traveling to verify the eligibility criteria of your destination.
Only adults over 21 years old can purchase cannabis in California without a written recommendation from a doctor. You can only purchase and possess marijuana that exceeds the bounds of the state’s recreational laws with a medical marijuana identification card (MMIC). In addition, cannabis purchases are only tax-exempt if you have a marijuana card.
No--California does not accept out-of-state medical marijuana ID cards. Still, recreational users over 21 years old can purchase up to 1 ounce of cannabis or 8 grams of concentrate under the state’s recreational marijuana law.