A Guide to Getting a California Medical Marijuana Card in 2018

2018 is the year cannabis goes legal in California. As of 01/01/2018, it will longer be a legal requirement to hold a medical marijuana card for a person aged 21 or over should they possess 1 ounce or less of cannabis (max. 8 g of concentrates). There will undoubtedly be “end of prohibition” parties and the like come New Year’s Eve (although cannabis isn’t federally illegal yet, so it’s only a part-way victory).

Regardless of the upcoming legal recreational market, there are good reasons to get a medical marijuana card. Here’s how and why …

How Do I Get a Medical Marijuana Card?

  1. Register with your email and enter the virtual waiting room.
  2. Be seen by a physician in minutes – ensure your camera and microphone are on so the doctor can see and hear you.
  3. Should you qualify, you will receive your medical marijuana recommendation letter in your inbox immediately. A hard copy of your recommendation letter will be sent to your address within 2-3 days.

This process takes around 10 minutes in total, although it can be quicker in some cases! We think it can be done in three …

Once you have your recommendation letter, you will be given a unique 7 character patient ID code that is registered to the California Medical Marijuana Program. You can enter a medical marijuana dispensary immediately after getting your recommendation letter.

When entering a dispensary, you will have to show this letter/email to the receptionist, who will verify the number and let you in once the rec is confirmed genuine. Recommendation letters are usually valid for one year. It is recommended you laminate your hard copy rec letter to protect it from damage.

What Else Do I Need to Qualify for an MMJ Card?

A California state photographic ID and proof of residency. If you don’t have California-issued identity, out-of-state or out-of-country government-issued photographic identification is acceptable. You don’t necessarily need to be a resident of California, but having a California address helps. Any supporting medical reports and/or your medical records documenting your condition will help as well.

You must be aged 18 or older to apply for a medical marijuana card for yourself. You may be able to get a medical marijuana card for a younger patient if you are a Caregiver for a child with a serious condition. Please call us if this is the case. Caregivers must be aged 18 or older, and must be the Primary Caregiver for the patient.

A Primary Caregiver is defined as a person who consistently provides for the housing, health or safety of a person who needs medical care or assistance (the patient). Caregivers will often need to take courses to qualify as caregivers, especially if they are providing specialist care.

You Suffer From a Condition That Merits Medical Marijuana …

Are you suffering from chronic pain? Are you being prescribed a cornucopia of nasty opioids? Do you want to avoid or escape the cycle of addiction such medications can bring? Then getting yourself a medical marijuana card and trying cannabis might help. Though we cannot guarantee cannabis will work for your pain, it is worth noting that no pain medication is guaranteed to work, and cannabis is a lot safer than opioids.

If there’s an alternative to the current addictive and potentially dangerous opioids being prescribed to control pain, you owe it to yourself to try something that takes death via overdose off the table.

What conditions can cannabis be recommended for in California?

Proposition 215 affords patients suffering from the following conditions legal protection under California Medical Marijuana Law:

  • Anxiety
  • Arthritis
  • Cancer
  • Chemotherapy Side-Effects
  • Chronic Pain
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Glaucoma
  • Migraine Headaches
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
  • Radiation Therapy Side-Effects
  • Any chronic or persistent medical symptom that causes serious harm to the patient’s physical or mental health if not alleviated, or a condition that limits the patient’s ability to carry out one or more major life activities (e.g. eating, movement), as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act 1990.

California is perhaps one of the most “open” states when it comes to the sorts of conditions one can get recommended for. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Depression and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) are other conditions you could potentially get a MMJ card for.

I’ve got a 420 Rec. Do I need a MMJ card as well?

Not technically, no. You can get a standard recommendation letter alone for $49, which will allow you to enter medical marijuana dispensaries. However, we recommend getting both the recommendation letter and the medical marijuana ID card for $59, as some dispensaries prefer you have both. The photographic ID card will also help if law enforcement hassles you.

A Premium Card will cost you $129, which includes not only the rec and MMJ card, but also a Grower’s Recommendation Card allowing you to grow up to 99 plants or up to 100 square feet for personal use. Whether you’re a medical marijuana patient or not, the maximum number of plants a person without a Grower’s Recommendation Card can grow is 6 plants – this might not be enough for a patient with specific health needs.

The Grower’s Rec also gives a bit more “breathing room” should you wish to grow your own cannabis – you might not need 99 plants, but you might need more than 6! Having such a card will also cover you if you are growing in cycles, so having 6 – 12 plants in vegetation stage (immature plants) and 6 plants in flowering stage (mature plants) won’t prove to be a problem with the protective measures a Grower’s Rec provides.

Technically, the legal amount of cannabis plants a person can grow on their private property at any one time is 6 mature and 12 immature plants. This is for both medical and recreational marijuana users. Again, a medical marijuana user may be allowed to “grow as much as is needed”, but law enforcement may consider large amounts “excessive”. Therefore, it is probably best to keep within a safer range if growing for yourself, and only ever growing the amount you need personally. We all know the law can be a bit of an ass! Don’t become another statistic.

Regardless of the type of recommendation you have, you will have to renew your rec and card yearly. Should you order a medical marijuana card alongside your recommendation letter, you will get your ID card alongside your hard copy rec letter in the mail, which should arrive in 2-3 days’ time once qualified. Also, if you are renting a place and wish to grow for medical reasons, the landlord has no obligation by law to allow you to do so.

Has anything changed since 2017? Has recreational marijuana affected medical marijuana in any way?

Essentially, “No”. The process of getting a medical marijuana card in 2018 is pretty much exactly the same as the process of getting a medical marijuana card in 2017. Recreational marijuana laws do not affect the protections afforded to medical marijuana patients by Prop. 215 and SB420. If anything, it means that, if a medical marijuana patient is caught by law enforcement with less than an ounce of dried cannabis “flower” or “buds”, or 8 grams of concentrate (e.g. hashish, wax, shatter) on their person, they will no longer have to route around for their MMJ card and/or rec letter. Whether anything will change with regards to the culture surrounding the “recreational” and “medical” side of cannabis remains to be seen.

Why should I get a MMJ card now that it’s legal?

There are some significant economic benefits in getting a medical marijuana card in California. For one, it saves you having to pay the sales tax that will be applied to recreational marijuana users. The percentage saving will vary from area-to-area as different locales have different tax regimes, but it could be anywhere from 5% to 15%. There are more extreme tax projections, with some speculation of taxes on cannabis going as high as 45%. Should this be the case, getting a medical marijuana card will save you plenty of cash.

Secondly, dispensaries often have sales and offers exclusively to medical marijuana patients. Sadly, this could be lower-quality and/or mislabelled cannabis on some occasions, so always check the cannabis properly. The cost of the card is often compensated for by the savings in tax over the course of the year, at least in California. Keep

Another advantage to having a medical marijuana card is that your possession limit is significantly higher than the 28.5 grams of bud for recreational users. Although no possession limit is specified for a medical marijuana patient (“whatever amount is necessary for personal medical use” – a doctor may recommend more, depending upon the patient’s needs), it is perhaps wise to keep it to less than a few ounces, even for a valid medical marijuana patient. This is because police can still arrest you if they feel the amount you have in your possession is “excessive”.

We here at Leafwell are all about keeping safe and sensible. Keep to whatever your local laws are with regards to possession limits and the like. Don’t travel with excessive amounts wherever possible. Never, ever, ever cross state lines with cannabis in any form on your persons, even between two legal states, and even with a valid medical marijuana card. This is a federal crime.

If you are growing, keep it out of plain sight and in an enclosed space. Look after your cannabis well, and keep it out of the reach of children and pets. Treat it as you would any other medicine, and hopefully the cannabis will help treat you in return.

Can I sell any excess medical marijuana I grow?

It is advisable you keep your personal use personal. Unless you are part of a cooperative, it is not advisable to sell any excess produce,and even then you could potentially get into trouble! Monetary proceeds may be taken as evidence of felony. Should you wish to sell cannabis legally, you will need the appropriate business licenses and the like, which we cannot provide (though others can). There are also a lot of problems with how money made from the sale of cannabis and cannabis-related products are processed by banks.

Interestingly enough, it is not illegal to “gift” a person aged 21 or over an ounce or less of cannabis. So, although you cannot sell cannabis for remuneration without the appropriate licenses, you may give it away to those of appropriate age. Of course, it is perhaps best to do this at your discretion, and to gift cannabis to someone who is open-minded towards and may find benefit from using it. Our “Free the Weed” motto seems all the more relevant here.

What about caregivers? How does the change in cannabis laws affect them?

Again, not much has changed in terms of medical marijuana laws for Caregivers. Caregivers can still apply for a medical marijuana card on behalf of the patient they are looking after, and they are subject to the same laws as any other medical marijuana patient. Caregivers cannot use medical marijuana if they don’t have a recommendation for themselves.

Caregivers may possess up to 8 dried ounces of cannabis, and grow up to 6 mature plants or 12 immature plants for each patient they are the primary Caregiver for. One person may be the Primary Caregiver for many patients, as long as all the patients live in the same county or city as the Primary Caregiver. Caregivers ought to think about obtaining a Grower’s Recommendation Card, especially if they are growing for more than one patient.

A US Marihuana Tax Stamp from 1937
Marijuana was already taxed at one point in US history!

Any other advantages to having an MMJ card?

It could be argued that those with a valid medical marijuana card have a lot more legal precedent protecting them. There are a greater number of laws that could be seen to protect patients, in comparison to those who use cannabis recreationally. Also, there will also likely be an “adjustment” period over the first several months or so of 2018, when licenses are given out, kinks in the law are ironed out and regulatory pressures are applied.

New dispensaries need to set up, and existing ones need to cope with a new influx of customers. There will no doubt be different issues at the local level that need to be looked at as well. Not every town and city in California wants recreational marijuana, so there will still be some restrictions in different places. Having a medical marijuana card could make accessing cannabis a little bit simpler, well into 2018 and even 2019.

There are also some reciprocity laws in place, meaning that other states in the U.S. recognize California-issued medical marijuana cards as valid. Nevada is one such state, and allows patients from other states to purchase medical marijuana at a dispensary. Other states like Maine, Rhode Island and New Hampshire recognize out-of-state medical marijuana cards, but don’t usually allow out-of-state patients to purchase at one of their dispensaries.

A valid MMJ card does, however, provide some legal protection in other states with reciprocity, assuming you stay within local laws. However, you still cannot carry cannabis across state lines. This is the case even if you are travelling between two medically/recreationally legal states and you have a valid marijuana card. A doctor’s recommendation will not save you. The fact that you might be suffering from a serious medical condition won’t save you. Medicare will not save you. Even the Toxic Avenger will not save you. Cannabis is a schedule I drug, and until the law changes, it will be treated as such on a federal level.

I don’t like the state/big brother keeping an eye on me …

… No information about patients is shared to law enforcement agencies. We are also HIPAA compliant, and your medical data is kept secure and private. Both medical and recreational users have the same amount of government eye on them. The government would prefer to charge bigger companies than a singular cancer patient – more political and financial capital in it for them.

Cooperatives, dispensaries and those handling large amounts of cannabis ought to be more wary than a Crohn’s sufferer carrying a few grams and growing a couple of plants at home, although it is reasonable for anyone who finds therapy in cannabis to be wary of government to some degree. It’s still federally illegal, after all!

The Sign Google Hopes Will Be Everywhere
Big brother isn’t always watching us – it can’t afford to!

What about health insurance?

Insurance providers will not usually provide any monetary assistance in those looking to get a medical marijuana rec and/or card. In some instances, it may put your health insurance in jeopardy, especially if you work in a government department that requires drug testing. Cannabis is federally illegal, and employers may terminate cannabis users’ employment at their discretion, even if they have a valid medical reason and MMJ card. However, things are changing, and some employers have updated their policies.

Any other restrictions?

There are some restrictions that apply to both recreational and medical marijuana users alike. They include:

  • No smoking cannabis where smoking tobacco is not permitted.
  • No smoking of cannabis in public, unless allowed by public ordinance – doing so could land you a fine, especially if you are near a government building, public park or anywhere where there might be large congregations of children.
  • Using cannabis whilst driving is obviously illegal. You cannot legally drive when under the influence of cannabis, and any cannabis kept in the car with you must be kept locked away and out-of-sight. Passengers in the car are not legally allowed to consume cannabis whilst in a vehicle, either.
  • You cannot ingest cannabis within 1,000 feet of a school, daycare center or youth center, unless you are in a private residence and any cannabis smell or smoke is not detectable by children.
  • Any cannabis must be kept out-of-reach of children. Treat it as you would any other medication, and lock it away.

What’s the total amount of cannabis I can carry?

If you are a medical marijuana user, your doctor can technically recommend you “as much as is needed for your condition”. Recreational users can carry a maximum of 28.5 grams (just a little over 1 oz.) of bud/flower, and a maximum of 8 grams of concentrate. However, for safety reasons, it is perhaps best for medical users to keep on the down-low in terms of amounts carried. Unless absolutely needed, it is probably best to carry smaller amounts when out-and-about.

If you are carrying both bud and concentrate, it is perhaps best to “split the difference”. You shouldn’t carry the maximum amount of both, as that would take you over the legal limit. This means that you have to take THC content into account, including when it comes to edibles, which are counted as concentrates.

Sixteen 500 mg THC cartridge would be equal to approximately 8 g of cannabis concentrate. A 200 mg brownie would be equal to about a maximum of 40 brownies, whilst a 1000 mg (1 g) THC brownie would mean you could carry a maximum of 8 brownies. For 10 mg THC sweets or candies, you could carry up to 800 (or 80 packs of 10).

You therefore cannot carry a combination of an ounce of bud and 8 g of concentrate. You must take both amounts into account, so if you’re carrying a 14 g (28 half-gram joints), then you ought to be able to carry approximately 4 g of concentrates, which is about 8 cartridges of 500 mg THC. Keep this in mind when buying bulk amounts, as it could potentially save you a lot of legal trouble. Anyway, for most people, even a small portion of a 200 mg THC brownie is more than enough!

Tincture Made at Home
Homemade Tincture

What will the future bring for medical marijuana patients beyond 2018?

Nobody knows! If we did, we’d be Biff Tannen levels of rich. As more research comes out, and as more states legalizing cannabis puts more pressure on federal laws, expect to see cannabinoid and terpenoid concentrations specific to each person’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) and the condition they suffer from. Such highly personalized products will likely only be available to medical marijuana patients, at least at first, and especially as they are in most need of such medications.

California is one of the world’s most mature marijuana markets, despite being it only legal for medical reasons since the passing of the California Compassionate Use Act 1996 and Prop. 215, and Senate Bill 420 (SB 420) in 2003. Be rest assured that the rest of the United States and much of the world will be looking at California to see how the market copes,as well as what regulatory procedures will be put in place to ensure consistent, safe products. California is a big state with lots of people in it. What happens here could well be copied elsewhere.

Seven-Fingered Cannabis Sativa Leaf
Leaf from a cannabis sativa plant.

So, if you suffer from a qualifying condition and want to see how cannabis and can help, getting yourself a medical marijuana card would be of great help. Self-treating your pain, anxiety, depression or any other condition using the recreational market means you’ll likely be wondering in the dark for many years. Why not get doctors and scientists to help you, so you can get the most out of cannabis, medically-speaking? A medical cannabis card is your first step towards greater understanding of both yourself and the power of this amazing plant.

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