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What You Should Know About California's Medical Marijuana Laws

California legalizes both medical and recreational use of marijuana, though there are specific guidelines surrounding both types of use. In today’s blog, we discuss the qualifying factors for medical marijuana use and how individuals can obtain a Medical Marijuana ID Card.

Legalized Marijuana Use in California

Under California’s medical marijuana law, patients who meet certain requirements can obtain and use marijuana legally with a doctor’s recommendation. Note that recreational use has also been legalized in California for those above the age of 21, though patients with a doctor’s recommendation can grow or possess larger quantities of marijuana than recreational users. Additionally, those under 21 years old must have a doctor’s recommendation to purchase marijuana at select dispensaries.

Doctors do not necessarily “prescribe” marijuana for medical use, as federal law specifically prohibits prescription of Schedule I drugs, which includes marijuana. Instead, doctors can “recommend” marijuana for appropriate conditions. The conditions that qualify for the California medical marijuana program, include:

  • AIDS
  • Anorexia
  • Anxiety
  • Arthritis
  • Cancer
  • Chronic Pain
  • Depression
  • Glaucoma
  • Insomnia
  • Migraine
  • Persistent muscle spasms
  • PTSD
  • Seizures (including epileptic seizures)
  • Severe nausea
  • Any other chronic or persistent medical symptom that affects someone’s ability to conduct major life activities.

Individuals who seek to participate in the state’s medical marijuana program are not required to obtain a Medical Marijuana ID Card to use medical marijuana legally; they just need a doctor’s recommendation. However, an ID card can be useful, as it exempts the patient from paying taxes on marijuana purchases. The ID card can also prevent law enforcement from arresting a patient with permissible amounts of marijuana that may exceed the legal recreational limits.

Obtaining a Medical Marijuana ID Card

To get a Medical Marijuana ID Card, your doctor will need to have diagnosed you with a qualifying medical condition and approve the use of medical marijuana for treatment. To participate in the medical marijuana program, individuals must meet the following criteria:

  • be at least 18 years old; those who are underage must have parent or legal guardian approval, unless they are emancipated or declared self-sufficient status;
  • provide proof of identity, such as a California driver’s license or some other government-issued identification card;
  • be a resident of California and provide proof of residency through either a rental or mortgage agreement, utility bill, or California DMV motor vehicle registration;
  • be diagnosed with a qualifying medical condition;
  • provide written documentation from a physician that medical marijuana is appropriate for treating a documented medical condition.

To apply for the program, you must submit an application in person for a medical marijuana identification card at your county office and:

  • pay the application fee, no more than $100 or $50 for Medi-Cal beneficiaries; and
  • have your photo taken.

The county has 30 days to verify a patient’s application. Once the county has verified the application, county staffers have 5 days to provide a patient with their medical marijuana card. Once you have received your card, it will be valid for up to 1 year, after which you can apply to renew the card.

Note that primary caregivers may also join the California medical marijuana program. Primary caregivers are people responsible for taking care of a qualified patient in the form of safety, health. or housing, often someone who runs a home health agency, a licensed clinic, or a hospice facility. Typically, the primary caregiver needs to be at least 18, though certain exceptions may apply.

As mentioned earlier, if you have a California medical marijuana card, you can legally possess and grow as much cannabis as you need to treat your medical condition. More specifically, Senate Bill 420 (2003) authorizes individual patients (and their caregivers) to possess up to 6 mature or 12 immature plants and 8 ounces of dried cannabis. Patients can grow up to an area of 100 square feet, and primary caregivers can cultivate up to 500 square feet for the personal medical use of up to 5 patients. Note that it is not legal to sell without a license.

Some cities and counties may raise the limits on quantity if they choose (although more than 100 square feet would issue in new licensing requirements). They can also impose zoning restrictions for dispensaries or prohibit outdoor cultivation, so be sure to check your local codes for more specific guidelines.

Consult Corrigan Welbourn Stokke, APLC with Questions

Marijuana is legal for medical and recreational use in California, though there are more specific guidelines for each type of use. If you seek to participate in the state’s medical marijuana program and obtain an ID card, which could exempt you from paying sales tax and allow for a larger quantity in possession, consult an experienced California attorney for legal guidance as you pursue this option.

Contact our firm at Corrigan Welbourn Stokke, APLC for more information on the medical marijuana program in California.