California Medical Marijuana Card

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Is Medical Marijuana Legal in California?

Yes, medical marijuana is legal in California. Medicinal marijuana was legalized in California through Proposition 215, also called the Compassionate Use Act of 1996. Proposition 215 allowed Californians to obtain medical marijuana for the treatment of specific medical conditions. The state's medical marijuana program was established under SB 420, also called the Medical Marijuana Program Act. The California medical marijuana program is overseen by the state Department of Public Health (CDPH).

What is Medical Marijuana in California?

In California, medical marijuana refers to plant-derived and synthetic cannabinoids legally used to treat certain chronic medical conditions or alleviate their associated symptoms. Although marijuana is considered illegal under federal law, the California Compassionate Use Act of 1996 allows patients with qualifying conditions to grow, purchase, possess, and use CBD and THC for medicinal purposes. In comparison, California does not require users of recreational marijuana to have any qualifying conditions.

Who Can Get a Medical Marijuana Card For Cannabis In California?

Medical marijuana in California is only available to residents of the state. Such residents, aged 18 or older, may legally purchase marijuana by themselves. However, Californians under the age of 18, who intend to use medical marijuana, may do so through designated caregivers permitted to access medical marijuana on their behalf.

Residents who intend to use medical marijuana must also get medical cannabis recommendations from qualified physicians certifying that they suffer from one or more of the approved medical conditions. These conditions include:

  • Anorexia

  • AIDS

  • Arthritis

  • Chronic pain

  • Cachexia

  • Cancer

  • Migraine

  • Glaucoma

  • Persistent muscle spasms

  • Seizures

  • Severe nausea

A physician may also recommend medical marijuana to a resident diagnosed with chronic or persistent symptoms that substantially limit the individual's ability to perform major life activities. A doctor's recommendation may also be obtained for symptoms that may cause serious harm to a person's safety, mental health, or physical health.

How to Get a Medical Marijuana Card in California

To get an MMIC in California, you must apply in person at your county medical marijuana program. You will be required to complete the Medical Marijuana Application form. Per application rules, you must reside in the county where the application is submitted. The following documentation will be required:

  • A copy of the medical marijuana recommendation obtained from your attending physician

  • Proof of identity, such as a valid California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) driver's license and ID card or other valid State of California-issued photo identification card

  • Proof of residency in California, such as a utility bill, state DMV motor vehicle registration, and rental or mortgage statement

At the local public health department appointment, your photograph will be taken at the program office, and you will be required to pay the applicable application fee. Upon submitting your application with the required documentation, the county has 30 days to approve or deny it. If approved, the county program will make the MMIC available to you within 5 days. Therefore, if the county finds no reason to deny your MMIC application, it can take up to 35 days for you to receive a medical marijuana identification card in California.

How to Get a Medical Marijuana Card in California Online

California makes no provisions for applying for its medical marijuana card online. The state’s Department of Cannabis Control only accepts applications submitted in person and mandates applicants to visit their county’s health department to complete their marijuana card applications.

What Is the Cost of a California State Medical Marijuana Card?

Applications for MMICs are completed at the county level in California. Therefore, the application fee varies per county. However, the State of California has set a cap of $100 for a medical marijuana identification card. Hence, no county may charge more than $100 for an MMIC. California's medical marijuana law permits Medi-Cal beneficiaries to obtain MMICs for reduced fees. A Medi-Cal beneficiary will receive a 50% reduction in application fee if proof of participation in the Medi-Cal program can be provided. The fee will be waived for indigent California patients who qualify for, and participate in, the County Medical Services Program.

The renewal fee for an MMIC is the same as the initial application fee. No county may charge more than $100 for an MMIC renewal.

Who Can Prescribe Medical Marijuana in California?

California requires medical marijuana identification card applicants to obtain recommendations from their physicians before completing MMIC (medical marijuana identification card) applications. The state's medical marijuana identification card program (MMICP) does not maintain a list of physicians qualified to issue medical marijuana recommendations. However, the attending physician must possess a license in good standing issued by the Osteopathic Medical Board or the Medical Board of California.

Can a Minor Get a Medical Marijuana Card in California?

Yes. California medical marijuana laws provide for residents under the age 18 to obtain and use medical marijuana. Minors, like adult residents, must get medical marijuana recommendations from qualified physicians and designate caregivers who are at least aged 18 before applying for medical marijuana identification cards. Minors may apply for themselves if they are lawfully emancipated or have declared self-sufficiency status; however, additional documentation may be required during their applications.

Can You Get a Medical Marijuana Card at 18 in California?

Yes. Medical marijuana users in California can apply for medical marijuana cards when they turn 18 without the consent of their parents or guardians. California even allows minors (under the age of 18) to apply for medical marijuana cards in their own names if they are legally emancipated and self-sufficient.

How to Renew Your California Medical Marijuana Card

Pursuant to the rules of the state's Medical Marijuana Identification Card Program (MMICP), a medical marijuana identification card is valid for one year. The renewal process for an MMIC is the same as the process required to get the card and may be completed by visiting your county's department of public health.

You will be required to provide a medical recommendation from your attending physician when applying for a renewal. You will also be required to pay a renewal fee which is usually the same as the initial cost of obtaining an MMIC. It is recommended that you submit a renewal application 45 - 60 days prior to the expiration of the MMIC. Note that regardless of the expiry date on a primary caregiver's MMIC, the caregiver's MMIC expires on the day the patient's MMIC expires.

Can You Grow Medical Marijuana in California?

A medical marijuana patient or approved caregiver in California can grow up to 6 mature or 12 immature plants at home per qualified patient. Per Section 11362.77 of the California Health and Safety Code (HSC), a registered patient or a primary caregiver with a physician's recommendation stating that the maximum allowable number of cannabis plants would not meet their medical requirements may grow as many marijuana plants as is consistent with their needs. Furthermore, Section 11362.77 of the HSC permits cities and counties to enact regulations allowing qualified patients and primary caregivers to exceed the state growing limits.

Does California Allow Medical Marijuana Patients to Designate Caregivers?

Yes. California provides for the use of caregivers by qualified medical marijuana patients in the state. A caregiver is an individual aged 18 or older who consistently assumes responsibility for the housing, health, or safety of a qualified medical marijuana patient. Caregivers are designated by qualified patients and not by the state. Besides being an adult, there are no special requirements for becoming a medical marijuana caregiver in California. Typically, a qualified patient can designate one caregiver. However, California permits an individual to be designated by multiple qualified patients as their primary caregiver. In such an instance, the caregiver and all the qualified patients must reside in the same county. Although caregivers can obtain MMICs, they cannot apply directly for the cards themselves. Instead, the patients associated with the caregivers are required to apply on behalf of the caregivers.

What Do You Need When Visiting a Medical Marijuana Dispensary in California?

A valid physician's recommendation is required to purchase medical-grade marijuana in California. Although it is not required for residents to obtain a medical marijuana identification card to participate in the California marijuana program, presenting an MMIC at a medical marijuana dispensary will exempt you from paying sales and use tax on purchases.

Is it Possible to Overdose on Cannabis in California?

The notion that marijuana is a harmless pleasure is not entirely true. While a fatal overdose is very unlikely, consuming too much cannabis may lead to many adverse reactions such as extreme confusion, paranoia, anxiety, panic, increased blood pressure, fast heart rate, severe nausea/vomiting, and delusions/hallucinations. Even then, the Center for Disease Control reports that there is no death resulting solely from cannabis overdose.

In California, the quantity of cannabis that can be referred to as an overdose depends on certain factors such as tolerance, potency of the cannabinoid used, and the route of administration. Typically, tolerance varies from person to person and how the cannabis is ingested greatly influences its potency. For instance, inhaled/smoked cannabis is less likely to cause overdose because its effect doesn't take time to kick in. The reverse is the case with edibles. Eating edibles could take some time, usually between 20 minutes and 2 hours for their effects to be felt. As such, some Californians may confuse them to be weak, thereby consuming more than their body metabolism can handle.

Another factor that can cause cannabis overdose in the state of California is mixing cannabis with alcohol. This is because alcohol increases the absorption of marijuana's psychoactive ingredient, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). While some people tolerate this mixture well, it can cause negative effects in others.

High-THC cannabis products are associated with more adverse reactions. This explains why most medical dispensaries and marijuana shops in California list the amount of THC in their cannabis products.

In some cases, the adverse reactions such as panic, paranoia, and confusion may result in injuries of social and economic consequences such as car crashes, fall, or poisoning. On a related note, driving under the influence of marijuana in California is a criminal offense as stated under the California Vehicle Code 23152(f). Californians with MMJ cards and medical recommendations are not immune and can be convicted of a cannabis-related DUI. Pursuant to this code, California law enforcement agencies usually charge DUIs involving cannabis as misdemeanors but repeat and aggravated offenders may face felony charges.

If I am Pregnant, Can I Use Cannabis to Relieve Nausea in California?

Obstetricians and gynecologists in California do not recommend cannabis or related products for the relief of nausea in pregnant women. Typically, about 80-90 percent of pregnant women experience "early morning sickness" characterized by nausea and vomiting in their first trimester. While morning sickness does not harm the woman or the developing fetus, it may prevent the woman from working effectively, socializing, and looking after her other children.

Even though a significant number of pregnant Californians swear that cannabis quenched the nausea they felt in the first three months of their pregnancy, its efficacy and potential risk to the unborn baby are poorly researched. This is majorly because of ethical issues and safety concerns. However, a study published in 2020 suggests that consuming marijuana during pregnancy can increase the risk for premature birth, low birth weight, and congenital anomalies, especially gastroschisis. This is also true for women suffering from a severe form of early pregnancy symptoms known as Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG). HG presents with a protracted and severe form of nausea, multiple vomiting, dehydration, weight loss, and even electrolyte imbalance. Some believe that the legal CBD-based products of cannabis can benefit California women suffering from nausea as well as HG without producing the psychoactive "high" effect of THC. However, its use in the state is discouraged until further research in medical literature marks it safe for both the mother and unborn baby.

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