How to Get a Medical Marijuana ID Card

As of July 2015, there were 23 legal medical marijuana states, plus the District of Columbia. If your state offers this alternative therapy program, you can easily access it by following just a few simple steps that will teach you how to prepare and what to do in order to get a medical marijuana ID card.


Understanding the Guidelines

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    Find out if your condition is covered. Medicinal marijuana is prescribed for a wide variety of conditions, spanning from physical ailments to mental health issues. However, what conditions qualify you for a medical marijuana card, known as qualifying conditions, vary widely from state to state.

    • Legality varies widely, so make sure you know if your condition is covered before beginning the application process. Some states, such as Montana and Wyoming, only allow access to cannabis oil and only prescribe it for seizure disorders related to epilepsy. Other states have a wide array of qualifying conditions and allow cannabis to be sold in multiple forms.[1]
    • Common conditions covered include cancer, HIV/AIDS, Crohn’s Disease, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, and chronic pain. Some states include symptoms of underlying disorders, such as nausea, as a qualifying condition.[2]
    • You should be able to find a list of qualifying conditions on a variety websites that advocate for medicinal marijuana or you can check your state’s Department of Health website. If your condition is listed, you qualify for a medical marijuana card.
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    Understand the difference between dispensaries and caregivers. The distribution of medicinal marijuana varies from state to sate. Figure out if your state allows caregivers, dispensaries, or both.

    • Under the caregiver system, patients can designate a particular person as their caregiver. Caregivers grow marijuana, and give or sell it to the patient. Some states require the caregiver to manage the patient’s well-being in regards to their use of marijuana, but no medical training is required.[3]
    • While a few states have no restrictions, most states using the caregiver system limit the number of patients a caregiver can have. States that have the dispensary system intact usually allow caregivers as an alternative option.[4]
    • The dispensary system allows medicinal marijuana to be sold through businesses. These businesses are referred to as dispensaries and you must have a valid, state issued medical marijuana card to enter and make purchases.[5]
    • Restrictions on dispensaries vary from state to state, but most states require all employees undergo a background check, that the dispensaries be located a certain distance from schools, and dispensaries must subject themselves to periodic state inspections.[6]
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    Know your limits. Each state sets limits for how much marijuana a qualified individual or caregiver can possess or grow. As you do not want to inadvertently violate the law, be aware of the limits in your state.

    • Caregivers, as stated, can only have a certain number of patients but restrictions often apply to how much they can grow. Explore your state’s Health Department website to figure out the limitations and discuss them with your caregiver.
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    Investigate reciprocity agreements. Your medical marijuana ID card is valid in your state only unless the state you are visiting accepts your state’s ID card.

    • Arizona, Delaware, Maine, Michigan, and Rhode Island accept out of state ID cards. New Hampshire does sometimes accept out of state cards, but only with a note from the original state.[7]
    • If you are not in one of the above listed states, your ID card is only valid in the state it was issued. In the event you move, you’ll need to apply for another card.[8]



Applying for a Card

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    Find a doctor. To get a state issued ID card, you need to visit a doctor who is licensed to prescribe medicinal marijuana. They can give you a written recommendation that you can use to secure your card.

    • Your doctor will want to know your medical history and might need medical records from previous doctors that include information relevant to your qualifying condition. Make sure you are able to access your medical records before making an appointment.
    • Directories of medical marijuana doctors are available online. You can also find qualified doctors from a dispensary’s website, if you live in a dispensary state. Some dispensary actually have doctors on staff so you can make your appointment through them.[9]
    • If you meet qualifications, your doctor will write you a recommendation for a med card. Some dispensary will allow you to buy medical marijuana with this recommendation alone. However, it’s better to pursue your card first to avoid any legal troubles.[10]
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    Fill out an application. While some states allow you to receive benefits based on a doctor’s recommendation alone, most states require you to fill out an application and submit it to the state for approval.

    • Application requirements vary from state to sate. Most will ask for basic information, like your name, address, and phone number. It will also usually ask for a variety of information related to your condition and medical history.[11]
    • You should include your doctor’s written recommendation with your application.
    • In some cases you can bring your documentation and fee to your county health department or health services department. In other cases, you must mail everything off to your state’s health department. In other states still, the application process is done entirely online.
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    Prepare payment. There are fees associated with obtaining a medical marijuana card; typically, you must pay administrative fees to both the county and the state. Some states will charge a reduced fee to patients if they receive Medicaid benefits, Social Security Disability, or other supplemental income or are part of other state-aid programs. Full fees can range from $100 to $250. Check the guidelines for your area to learn the exact costs.



Securing Your ID Card

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    Provide proof of identity and proof of residence. In order to obtain a card, you need to prove your identity and that you live in the state where you’re applying. When you apply to receive your card from the State Health Department, you’ll need proof of residence and identity.

    • For proof of identity, you can provide a state issued driver’s license or ID.[12]
    • Proof of residency can come in a variety of forms. You can include a rent or mortgage agreement, a utility bill, or your motor vehicle registration.[13]
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    Wait for your card to arrive. Once you’ve submitted your application, the state will take a few weeks to review and approve the materials. Once approved, there is a waiting period to receive your card.

    • The waiting period depends on a variety of factors and can range from a few days to a few weeks.
    • You can either have your card sent through certified mail or schedule a pick up at the state health department.[14]
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    Decide how to get your medicine. Once you’ve received your card, you are now legally able to receive medicinal marijuana to treat your qualifying condition. You need to decide which route to obtain your medicine is best for you.

    • If you want a caregiver, make sure you understand the rules and regulations surrounding caregivers in your state and choose someone you trust to provide you with your medicine.
    • Dispensaries vary in their selection and refutability. Ask around your area, talking to other medicinal marijuana patients, to find a dispensary that suits your needs. Different strands of marijuana work better for particular ailments and may not be available in all dispensaries.
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    Know how to deal with any issues. While most patients are able to obtain a card with little trouble, issues do arise from time to time in regards to legality. The best way to prepare is to be well informed on potential issues.

    • Rejection happens on occasion. The bulk of the time, your application is rejected for simple reasons, such as forgetting to include certain materials. In most states, you will receive a letter detailing the reasons for your rejection. You will be provided a date by which to resubmit your materials and the review process begins again.[15]
    • Money can be a road block for many when it comes to securing a card. Costs vary, but a consultation appointment with a licensed doctor can cost around $200. There are some discounts, by state, for low income patients. If money is a factor for you, you can look into discounts or see if you can raise money through local charity or online campaigns like GoFundMe.[16]
    • While medical marijuana is legal in certain states, it remains illegal on a federal level. Therefore, some businesses are still legally allowed to issue drug tests to employees and enact a zero tolerance policy when it comes to use of marijuana. This can be a difficult hurdle for patients who need their medicine but do not want to risk losing employment. Some states, however, provide state-wide protection of medicinal marijuana users or protect the rights of patients under state disability acts. Know the policies on drug testing and drug use in your place of work and what protection, if any, you have as a patient in your state.[17]

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