As of 2016, medical marijuana is now legal in 25 states, plus Washington D.C., and recent trends have continued to move in a favorable direction for legalization of this beneficial plant. Even if you live in a state where medical marijuana is currently available, you first must qualify for a condition that it is approved for treatment, and almost every state has a different standard for these ailments. Also, without some knowledge about the medical marijuana standards and how to become a patient in this program, it can seem like a daunting task to begin your treatment process.
Obtaining a medical marijuana card may seem like an appropriate option depending on your condition, and it will allow you legal access to cannabis, but the process can be confusing and difficult to navigate. Doctors aren’t always sold on the idea that medical marijuana is the best alternative treatment for certain conditions and may be more willing to prescribe standard medications. Medical professionals typically do not prescribe medical marijuana as easily as they will pharmaceutical drugs. There are specific steps to follow and tips that can help you gain access to a medical marijuana card that will help treat your illness.
Although each state has different standards and guidelines for obtaining a medical marijuana card, there are some general rules that you will need to be aware of. Once you are knowledgeable about the general process, it won’t be as confusing to go through the steps necessary to obtain your card. Here are some helpful tips to assist you on your quest for legal medical marijuana.
Be Ready to Provide Proof of Residence
The first thing you will need in order to obtain your medical marijuana card is valid documentation of your residence in a state where it is legalized. Some states require that you live there for a specific amount of time before being eligible for this card. A valid driver’s license or photo ID will be sufficient to satisfy this requirement. Even if you don’t currently have a driver’s license, you can readily obtain a photo identification card at your local DMV.
You Must Have Eligible Condition
Most people can easily provide proof of residence in one form or another, so the next step is to make sure you have been diagnosed with a condition that is eligible for medical marijuana treatment in your state. Although most states have similar conditions listed that qualify for this form of treatment, many of them will vary somewhat.
Common conditions covered in most states include cancer, HIV/AIDS, Crohn’s Disease, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, and ailments that cause chronic pain or anxiety. Some states include more general symptoms of underlying disorders, such as nausea, as a qualifying condition.
However, some areas are more focused on your symptoms rather than your condition and it’s up to a doctor to decide your eligibility for treatment. If you can prove a diagnosis that you have chronic pain because of a condition that isn’t on the list of eligibility, you may still be eligible.
Acquire Proper Documentation From Your Doctor
One of the last steps you will take on your journey to obtain a medical marijuana card is getting a doctor to sign off on the necessary forms. Even though you may live in a state that approves the use of this treatment, not all doctors are sold on the benefits of medical marijuana and may be hesitant to give you their approval. Conversely, you doctor may not feel qualified to prescribe it and might not have the education on this treatment to know the dosage or quantities to specify.
Fortunately, there are many medical marijuana clinics located throughout the states that legalized its use, and these doctors are specifically trained in the right prescribing practices of this treatment. They will know the eligible conditions, the guidelines surrounding prescriptions and the amounts that are approved to distribute. They can even offer recommendations on the strain of medical marijuana that would be best suited to treat your conditions.
If you have established these 3 minimum requirements, then you’re well on your way to getting a medical marijuana card. All you have to do now is a little bit of research on your state’s specific rules and regulations.
Here is a list of the most popular states and an overview of their medical marijuana regulations.
The state of Arizona passed a medical marijuana act in 2010, and allows qualifying patients to obtain marijuana from a registered, nonprofit clinic. They allow you to possess and use medical marijuana to treat your condition, as long as you have a written certification from your doctor. This certification must outline that you have been diagnosed with a condition that would benefit from the use of medical marijuana.
Patients who are qualified to receive a medical marijuana card may obtain up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana every 14 days. If the patient lives more than 25 miles away from the nearest clinic, they will be allowed to grow up to 12 marijuana plants on their own property.
The registration fee associated with obtaining your medical marijuana card is $150, but is only $75 for individuals receiving government assistance.
More information: Arizona Medical Marijuana Program
California was the first state to legalize marijuana for medical use and has set the standard for all the states that followed. In addition, California has removed state level criminal penalties on the use, possession and growing of marijuana by individuals who have a written or oral recommendation from their doctors for its use.
Qualified patients are allowed to possess up to 8 ounces of usable marijuana, or six fully grown plants, at any given time. There are certain circumstances that allow for higher amounts to be used, but only with the specific written permission from a doctor.
There is a $66 registration fee to obtain your medical marijuana card or $33 if you are part of Medi-Cal.
More information: CA Medical Marijuana Program
Yet another state that has decriminalized the use and possession of marijuana for patients, Colorado only requires that you receive documentation from your physician that affirms your condition, and claims that medical marijuana will help alleviate your symptoms. In 2010, a Colorado bill provided the legal framework for marijuana dispensaries and growers.
In order to legally possess medical marijuana in Colorado, a patient must be issued a medical marijuana registry identification card, which will allow them to own up to 2 ounces of marijuana at any given time. They are also allowed to grow up to six mature plants at a time.
The registration fee for this state is among the lowest and will only cost $15 to obtain a medical marijuana card.
More information: CO Medical Marijuana Registry
At the start of 2013, Massachusetts determined that there should be no punishment under state law for patients who use medical marijuana for treatment of qualifying medical conditions. State law also allows for cultivation of marijuana as long as their patient is registered into their MMJ Online System.
Massachusetts allows patients to possess a 60-day supply of their medical marijuana, which they have defined as up to 10 ounces. The state fee for registering in their medical system is a flat $50 and there are no discounts for individuals on any assistance programs.
More information: MA Medical Marijuana Program
The state of Oregon has also removed criminal penalties for patients who use or possess marijuana, as long as they have a signed recommendation from their doctor stating that its use may mitigate the negative symptoms of their condition. The key word here being, “may,” as it does not require absolute proof that marijuana helps relieve a particular ailment. It is left up to the physician’s discretion.
Any medical marijuana card holder in Oregon can possess up to 24 ounces of usable marijuana, or 6 mature plants. The law defines mature plants as any that are more than 12 inches in height and diameter.
Oregon has a higher state fee associated with obtaining a medical marijuana card than most. If you are not on any type of state assistance programs, then it will cost you $200 for new applications and subsequent renewals. If you are on food or medical assistance programs, the cost is reduced drastically to as low as $20.
More information: Oregon Medical Marijuana Program
Washington State was one of several states to legalize the use the medical marijuana after California, which took place in 1998. Qualifying patients who have a debilitating illness will require the approval of their doctor before using medical marijuana. The only requirement is that your doctor uses their judgment to determine that medical marijuana will help alleviate the symptoms caused by your condition.
A new amendment was just passed in Washington State on July 1, 2016, which states the amount of marijuana that is legal to possess will vary depending on whether the patient or provider is entered into the state’s marijuana database. If a patient meets this requirement, they are allowed to have up to 8 ounces of useable marijuana or up to six mature plants. After this bill went into effect, all non-licensed medical marijuana dispensaries were forced to shut down. There is no registration fee associated with obtaining a medical marijuana card in Washington State.
More information: WA Medical Marijuana Regulations
There are many states that are considering legalizing the use of medical marijuana in the future, and even certain presidential candidates have considered legalizing its use at the federal level. Although each state has their own set of rules and conditions that are applicable for the use of medical marijuana, many conditions include some very general symptoms such as nausea, sleeplessness, anxiety or pain. There are a vast range of medical ailments that can cause these conditions and as long as you have a physician who is open to the idea of alternative treatments, you should be able to easily obtain a medical marijuana card of your own.