Navigating Medical Marijuana in California

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Is cannabis legal in California?

California is one of the leading cannabis legalization states in the cannabis industry, having had legal medical cannabis well before other states. Medical marijuana has been an important part of the state’s public health, and has been legal for use in California since 1996 though Proposition 215 or the California Compassionate Use Act, and for recreational use since late 2016.

Cannabis is governed and regulated in California by the Department of Cannabis Control, and the medical marijuana identification card (MMIC) is administered on a county-by-county basis.

California state law has different rules for medicinal users than those who use cannabis for recreational purposes. Medicinal users have higher possession limits, can grow more plants at home if their licensed physician recommends it, and can buy more cannabis each day if their physician recommends it than recreational users.

Medical cannabis is an excellent way for people to take control of their personal medical future and medical marijuana cards have proven to be life-changing as people change their medical history and create a bright future.

Who medical conditions qualify for medical marijuana cards in California?

Qualified patients must have one or more qualifying medical conditions to get a medical marijuana card.

Medical cannabis card patients must have one or more of the following medical conditions that produce persistent medical symptom(s) to qualify for a medical marijuana card:

  • Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS)
  • Anorexia
  • Arthritis
  • Cachexia (wasting syndrome)
  • Cancer
  • Chronic pain
  • Glaucoma
  • Migraine
  • Severe nausea
  • Persistent muscle spasms (for example, spasms caused by multiple sclerosis)
  • Seizures (for example, epileptic seizures)

Your physician can also recommend you participate in the California medical marijuana program if they believe that cannabis can help with chronic or persistent medical symptoms that either:

  • Substantially limit your ability to conduct major life activities
  • May cause serious harm to your safety, physical health or mental health

How do I get a medical marijuana card in California?

There are five easy steps to get a medical cannabis card in California:

  1. Fill out the application by downloading and completing the medical marijuana ID card application form.
  2. Gather your supporting documents. Here is what you will need to get a medical marijuana card in California: a copy of your medical recommendation which can be obtained through Compassionate Clinics of America, proof of identity (driver’s license or other government-issued ID), and proof of residency that shows your name and current address (like a rental or mortgage agreement, utility bill, or California DMV vehicle registration)
  3. Make an appointment with your county public health department, as you must submit your application in person (NOTE: you cannot apply for your medical marijuana card online). Contact the health department for the county you live in for an appointment, as medical cannabis is administered on a county-by-county basis.
  4. Go to your appointment. At your appointment, you will pay an application fee and have your photo taken for your ID card. Application fees vary by county, but they are not more than $100. Applicants who are primary caregivers will need to be accompanied by the cannabis patient. (NOTE: If you receive healthcare through Medi-Cal, your application fee is reduced by 50%. If you receive healthcare through a medically-indigent service program, your application fee is waived.)
  5. Wait for approval. Be patient as it can take up to 35 days for the county health department to issue your medical marijuana ID card.

What are the benefits of having a medical cannabis card?

There are several benefits to being a medical marijuana patient in the state of California. Even though there is recreational cannabis in California, those with a California medical marijuana card have many more benefits than recreational cannabis users.

Because of the Compassionate Use Act, only medical cannabis patients with a marijuana card in California can:

  • Buy cannabis products with more THC
  • Buy more cannabis at a time, if needed for your medical condition
  • Possess more cannabis
  • Grow more marijuana plants at home, if needed for your medical conditions

Another large benefit of having a medical marijuana card in California is that medical patients and cannabis sales are exempt from state sales taxes and only have to pay an excise tax when they purchase cannabis.

For recreational cannabis, base sales tax rate is 7.25 percent — 6 percent state tax, plus a 1.25 percent mandatory local tax. Counties can apply an additional tax of up to 3 percent, bringing total sales tax as high as 10.25 percent.

Medical marijuana patients are only responsible for paying the 15% state excise tax at medical marijuana dispensaries when they purchase medical marijuana.

How much does a medical marijuana card cost?

Application fees for medical patients vary by county, and are set by each county medical services program, but they do not exceed $100 for a medical card.

The cost to get a medical recommendation from a qualified physician is $49 for new patients, and $35 for renewing patients.

Those cannabis patients with a Growers Card in California can receive a doctor’s recommendation for the fee of $149, with a renewal fee of $134.

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Do I need a doctor’s referral to get a medical card?

Yes, you need a medical recommendation to get a medical marijuana card in California. This can be obtained by making an appointment to see someone registered to practice medicine in California at Compassionate Clinics of America.

Once you have received these medical records confirming you live with qualifying conditions, you can proceed to apply for your medical card.

Can I apply to be a primary caregiver for someone else?

Yes, you can apply to be a primary caregiver for someone else, however, you must be responsible for the patient’s everyday needs such as housing, health, and safety.

Primary caregivers must be at least 18 years of age, and the primary caregivers can be a parent, or the owner, operator, or employee of a licensed facility, such as a clinic, hospice, or home health agency.

How long is my medical marijuana ID card valid in California?

A medical marijuana identification card in California is valid for up to one year. Be sure you are aware of your renewal date so that you can continue to purchase medical marijuana.

When you get your California medical marijuana recommendation from Compassionate Clinics of America, we let you know when it’s time to renew, so that you’re not without your California medical card.

We do not recommend that you substitute your medical marijuana dispensary with recreational dispensaries, as recreational marijuana companies cannot give you medical advice, as the marijuana act substantially limits what people can talk about in the adult use or recreational cannabis users context.

When can I renew my ID card?

For medical cannabis patients who want to renew their medical marijuana card, it is the same process to renew as when you originally applied.

To renew your get a medical marijuana card in California: a copy of your physician recommendation which can be obtained through Compassionate Clinics of America, proof of identity (driver’s license or other government-issued ID), and proof of residency that shows your name and current address (like a rent or mortgage agreement, utility bill, or California DMV vehicle registration).

If your former medical marijuana patient documentation is still valid, you may use this for your renewal, however, you need a current and up-to-date recommendation from a medical marijuana doctor to renew your card with the California department that administers cannabis in your county.

Be sure to contact your county program who can tell you what exactly is required for renewing your card.

I live in another state, can I apply for a California marijuana identification card (MMIC)?

California, medical marijuana program and dispensaries do not recognize out-of-state medical cards, however, visitors to California can apply for an MMIC without proof of residence.

We recommend that you call the county that you will be visiting to get the exact process for out-of-state visitors so that you’ll be able to purchase medical marijuana while visiting for personal medical use.

Can medical marijuana patients use cannabis anywhere in California?

According to California state law, medical marijuana users and recreational users can use cannabis on private property, but not in public places like restaurants or bars.

It is not permitted to smoke cannabis where it’s illegal to smoke tobacco.

It is illegal to smoke cannabis within 1,000 feet of a school, day care center or youth center while kids are present.

How long does it take to process my application for a California medical marijuana card?

It can take up to 35 days for the county health department to issue your medical marijuana identification card as well as approve the application to be a primary caregiver.

If you are renewing, you will want to ensure you renew well in advance to be sure you can continue to purchase marijuana from your favorite dispensary.

Will I be given a temporary medical marijuana identification card while my application is being processed?

While it varies by county medical services program, you will have to wait until you receive your medical cannabis card in the mail to begin purchasing medical cannabis at a dispensary.

Can a doctor complete a medical marijuana certification via telehealth?

While you cannot apply for a medical marijuana card online, you can get your medical marijuana certification from a licensed medical marijuana doctor through Compassionate Clinics of America, right from the comfort of your own home.

By working with us as your first step to getting a medical marijuana card, we put you at ease through the whole process.

You also get the best medical cannabis education with us through our newsletters and blog. In fact, we have won awards for our medical cannabis patient education!

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When does the medical cannabis physician certification expire?

Your medical cannabis recommendation through Compassionate Clinics of America expires within one year of it being issued.

We will send you an email well in advance to let you know it’s time to renew your your medical marijuana identification card and cannabis certification/recommendation, for which you’ll pay a lower fee than when you first pursued your California medical marijuana card.

Questions About Medical Cannabis Certification in California?

Feel free to connect with us anytime at [email protected] or call us at (888) 611-4820.

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Locations in California

Frequently Asked Questions

For Frequently Asked Questions specific to the medical marijuana program in California, visit:

California Medical Marijuana Program Frequently Asked Questions

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