California residents legalized medical marijuana in 1996 when they passed Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act. In 2013, Senate Bill 420 gave patients additional protections including making it harder to charge them when transporting small amounts of medical cannabis. It took twenty years from the passage of Prop. 215 for voters to pass the Adult Use Marijuana Act, also known as Proposition 64, effectively legalizing recreational use for adults.
While adults over 21 are able to buy cannabis flower or cannabis-infused edibles, topicals, tinctures, and more with a valid ID, there are many benefits to getting a medical marijuana card in California, especially if it’s part of your medically-endorsed treatment.
Benefits of a Medical Marijuana Card in California
Even though cannabis is legal to use, possess, and grow in California, there are many advantages to obtaining a medical cannabis card in California. From significant discounts on purchases to higher purchasing limits, a medical marijuana card in California affords you the following benefits:
- You don’t have to pay state and local sales taxes
- You can grow as much marijuana as your doctor’s recommendation allows
- You can obtain cannabis if you’re over 18 years old
- You can buy as much cannabis as your treatment requires
- Medical products have higher potency limits
Qualifying Conditions in California
According to the Compassionate Use Act, California residents over 18 years old with a qualifying medical condition can become a medical cannabis patient. California’s qualifying conditions include:
- Chronic pain
- Severe nausea
- Persistent muscle spasms
- Any chronic medical condition that harms you or limits your ability to perform important life activities
Medical Card Application Process in California
You can get a medical marijuana recommendation from a local and licensed medical marijuana doctor online or in-person at a clinic. Medical cannabis recommendations can cost as little as $40 and take minutes to complete. Getting a Medical Marijuana Identification Card (MMIC) is voluntary, but lets you skip paying taxes.
In order to get a MMIC, you must visit the county office you reside in, not a primary care doctor. When you visit a county program office you’ll pay an application fee and get your photo taken for your MMIC. Remember to bring in the following items:
- A completed MMIC application or renewal form
- A valid government-issued photo ID (driver’s license, ID card)
- Proof of residency in your county (rent agreement or mortgage, utility bill, DMV registration)
- A medical marijuana recommendation from a medical marijuana doctor
After submitting your MMIC application to your county program, the office has 30 days to verify your application and up to five days to make the card available to you. Any missing or incorrect documents may delay your application process.
Application fees vary by county, but cannot exceed $100 per card application or renewal. If you’re a Medi-Cal patient or an eligible applicant, you can receive a 50 percent discount on your application fee. Some counties will also waive the medical marijuana card application fees for indigent patients participating in the County Medical Services Program. Marijuana medical cards are only valid for one year from the date of issue, so remember to apply early enough to maintain continuous coverage.
Minors under the age of 18 can apply to become a medical marijuana patient or caregiver in California so long as they meet the state’s requirements. If you’re a minor, you can apply for yourself if you’re legally emancipated or have declared self-sufficiency status. If not, your parent or legal guardian can apply to become your primary caregiver.
Finding a Primary Caregiver
In California, a primary caregiver is an individual who is responsible for the housing, safety, and health of a qualified patient. Primary caregivers must be over 18 or be legally emancipated from a parent. They must apply in person with the qualifying patient, provide proof of identity, and pay an application fee of no more than $100 or $50 for caregivers of Medi-Cal patients. Minors often designate a parent to act as a primary caregiver. As a patient, you must check the “primary caregiver” box on the top of page one of your application or renewal form.
Buying Medical Marijuana
As a legal medical cannabis patient, you are entitled to buy, possess, and grow your own cannabis. Most medical cannabis consumers will buy products from a licensed dispensary or delivery service. If you want to save some money and exercise your green thumb, you are legally allowed to grow your own pot with a MMIC.
California medical cardholders can possess larger amounts of cannabis than recreational consumers. You can possess no more than eight ounces of dried cannabis and grow no more than six mature plants or 12 immature cannabis plants. Doctors may recommend even more than the specified limit if your chronic condition requires it.
If you’re an out-of-state patient, your valid medical cannabis card won’t work in California. Luckily, you can apply for a medical marijuana recommendation from a licensed physician in California if you have a qualifying condition. Just remember, don’t cross state borders with cannabis you got from California.
You can rest assured that your patient information will be kept confidential if you choose to apply for a medical marijuana card in California. Instead of relying on the recreational market, apply for a medical marijuana card for higher purchasing limits and lower costs to treat your medical condition. To learn more about cannabis growing, cooking, laws, and science, enroll in a comprehensive certification program at Cannabis Training University.