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How to get Cannabis Card in California – A Complete Guide

January 19, 2022


Since becoming legal in California in 1996, medical marijuana has opened new doors to the treatment of many serious health conditions for thousands of citizens. Over time, the cannabis industry has undergone continuous changes in how these products should be used and who can use them. Although adults can access recreational marijuana from anywhere across the state, patients with a doctor’s recommendation may take advantage of a wider array of benefits by possessing an official, county-issued, medical marijuana ID card.

If you live in California and you suffer from a chronic medical condition, you may get cleared to grow or possess larger quantities of marijuana for your health situation without incurring legal sanctions. Going through the process of obtaining a Medical Marijuana Identification Card (MMIC) helps qualifying patients and primary caregivers find new ways to explore medical treatments through cannabis use by accessing more products and services provided by the industry.

The MMIC Program in Detail

A Medical Marijuana Identification Card proves that the cardholder is protected under the provisions of Proposition 215 and Senate Bill 94 for the use and consumption of cannabis to treat their specific medical condition. Law enforcement can use the MMIC to verify that the individual patient or caregiver is allowed to possess medical marijuana under given conditions.

If you own a valid MMI card, you may purchase medical cannabis without paying for sales and use tax. The same applies to topical items and edibles. Low-income patients who participate in the County Medical Services Program are exempted from these taxes. Each county has 30 days to verify each application and 5 days to issue a new MMI Card.


California legalized the use of medical cannabis in 1996 through the Compassionate Use Act, also known as Proposition 215. This law allows seriously ill citizens and their primary caregivers to possess or cultivate marijuana for the personal purpose of treating the patient or the illness without being subject to sanctions or criminal prosecution.

Following Proposition 215, the Senate passed Bill 420 in 2002 to ensure all qualified patients and their caregivers are provided with a form of identification that would protect them from legal repercussions. This new identification card allowed certain citizens to use or possess higher quantities of medical marijuana for health purposes. The MMIC also helps law enforcement authorities in ensuring all cardholders meet the requirements of the Compassionate Use Act.

Although participation in the MMIC Program is only voluntary, the California Medical Marijuana Identification Card provides the citizen with numerous benefits. Although all qualified patients and caregivers are protected by the rules of Proposition 215, they must ensure that cannabis is cultivated solely for personal medical use, and that growing areas are kept to 100 square feet for individual patients or 500 square feet for primary caregivers to assist up to five patients.

Although the state of California made recreational marijuana completely legal on January 1, 2018, having an MMIC is still highly beneficial. For instance, only people over the age of 21 can benefit from recreational marijuana, while minors can access medical cannabis with the assistance of an MMIC holder, whether parent or guardian. Furthermore, MMJ cardholders can grow a higher quantity of cannabis compared to regular citizens.

What Documents Do I Need?

The California Department of Public Health’s (CDPH) Medical Marijuana Identification Card Program (MMICP) must verify that a patient or primary caregiver is qualified to grow, transport, or use medical marijuana within the state of California.

In addition to filling out form CDPH 9042, better known as MMIC Application/Renewal form, each applicant must possess the following documents:

  • A valid government-issued photo identification card. Minors without photographic identification can provide a certified copy of their birth certificate.
  • Proof of county residency through either of the following:
  • Recent utility bill
  • Current California motor vehicle registration
  • Rent receipt or mortgage documentation
  • Written doctor documentation confirming that the use of medical marijuana will treat one of the following serious medical conditions: anorexia, cancer, glaucoma, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), cachexia, arthritis, migraine, chronic pain, persistent muscle spasms, including multiple sclerosis; seizures, seizures with epilepsy, and severe nausea. Medical marijuana should be used for any symptom that prevents a person from conducting any major routine activity, causing harm to their safety, physical, or mental health.
  • Patients Medical Records document (Form CDPH 9044) signed by the patient’s medical provider. The county agency will then verify all documentation and information provided.
  • Medical Marijuana Doctor Recommendation
  • Fee payment of $42.00 ($21.00 for MediCal eligible patients). Such a fee is non-refundable.
  • Recent photo of the applicant with no sunglasses, hats, or bandanas.

Why Getting an MMJ Card in California?

Anyone over the age of 21 can access recreational marijuana in California, but this does not apply to those who don’t meet the age requirements or need higher amounts of cannabis to treat a medical condition. In such cases, the solution is obtaining a Medical Marijuana Identification Card.

The MMJ card allows minors or patients who need the assistance of a caregiver to access cannabis for medical purposes. For underage patients, their caregiver is usually a parent or legal guardian. As long as you have a serious qualified medical condition and a physician recommendation, a medical marijuana card will give you better access to dispensaries and special sales offers on certain products. California’s recreational dispensaries are limited to 1,000 mg of cannabinoid content per product, while medical dispensaries can sell items of up to 2,000 mg.

An MMJ allows you to legally possess or cultivate higher amounts of marijuana statewide, although the amount you can grow as an MMJ cardholder will vary depending on your city or county of residence. You can also benefit from saving on State and Local taxes since the card exposes you to lower rates or full price reductions. Medical users are also allowed to grow more than twelve immature cannabis plants. For higher quantities, a doctor’s recommendation will be required, explaining why the patient needs more cannabis and what health issues needs to be treated.

California Medical Card Rules and Laws

Although the state of California has been allowing recreational use of marijuana since 2018, it would be unwise to assume that cannabis abuse will bring no consequences. Buying one ounce of cannabis without a Medical Marijuana Card is legal but possessing more than the established amount may result in serious penalties. For instance, carrying more than 28.5 grams or more than 8 grams of concentrate leads to up to six months of jail time. The same applies to growing plants, with the limit being six. A felony occurs if marijuana is sold to a minor, i.e. a person aged 17 or younger.

If you suffer from one of the qualifying medical conditions and need to purchase higher quantities of cannabis, it is best to opt for a medical marijuana card. Doing so will not only ease the restrictions on cannabis possession, but you will also avoid the risk of legal repercussions.

What if the MMIC Applicant is 18 years old?

If you turned 18 and are looking to obtain a Medical Cannabis Card before reaching the “adult age”, you can still access it by following a few necessary steps. Make sure that this card is the best option for you, as using marijuana for an unnecessary medical condition while being underage may lead to serious legal penalties. After verifying your eligibility, here is how to proceed to obtain a medical marijuana ID card:

  • Submit an application with the state’s health department by completing an online form, which includes questions about your condition, how long you have been suffering from it, and what physician’s recommendations have been given.
  • Collect all necessary documentation, including a form of identification, medical test results, and official doctor diagnosis proving the extent of your condition.

How to Get a Medical Marijuana Card in California – Essential Notes

When you are ready to start with your MMIC application process, you can choose among three main options:

1. Meet a Doctor

Many new MMIC applicants prefer seeing a healthcare physician for an in-person appointment. The provider will go through your entire medical history, evaluating whether or not you need marijuana to treat your health condition. Remember that a doctor cannot directly prescribe marijuana, as this is against federal law. Instead, they can provide you with a detailed recommendation for you to take to your MMIC appointment. It’s best to choose a doctor that specializes in medical marijuana recommendations, as they will be able to discuss your condition in more detail and advise you on what cannabis products are best for your treatment. One of the lists of specialized doctors in California can be found here.

2.Choose an Online Doctor Appointment

If you are looking for a faster doctor service, you may opt for an online appointment with a specialized provider. Virtual doctor visits are cheaper and allow you to get your medical marijuana recommendation much faster than traditional, in-person appointments. Expect your online evaluation to last no more than 20 minutes. If the doctor confirms your eligibility, a medical marijuana recommendation document will be emailed to you as well as mailed to your address within 3 days. Once the letter has reached your mailbox, you will receive a unique 7-digit code for your medical marijuana ID program. You may be required to submit supporting documentation such as proof of residency, a photo ID, or additional medical information regarding your condition.

3. Use Apps

Apps are another fast way to obtain a doctor’s medical marijuana recommendation letter. For instance, California residents can download the app Eaze MD to fill out their medical history information before seeing a doctor for evaluation. Using apps also protects patients’ confidentiality and keeps their health information secure.

How to Get a Medical Marijuana ID Card – Process and Steps

Upon obtaining a physician’s recommendation, both patients and caregivers can follow a few simple steps to obtain a Medical Marijuana ID Card, which is valid for up to 12 months. Although getting an MMJ is not mandatory, it brings more advantages than a regular cannabis consumer, including sales and uses tax exemptions.

Step 1

Book a preliminary doctor appointment with a medical marijuana physician to discuss your health condition, medical history and see if you are eligible for a doctor’s cannabis use recommendation letter.

Step 2

Once the doctor confirms your eligibility and writes a recommendation form, fill out the online application form for an MMJ card. It can be found here.

Step 3

Gather all documents, especially your medical recommendation, photo ID, and proof of county residence (e.g. rent/mortgage agreement, utility bills, motor vehicle registration, etc.)

Step 4

Book an appointment with your county health department. Remember that you can only visit the office within the county you currently live in.

Step 5

Attend the appointment and submit all documentation. After taking an official photo, you will need to pay the necessary fee. If you are under Medi-Cal, you will receive a 50% fee reduction. Lastly, if you are applying as a primary caregiver, your patient will need to come with you on the day of the appointment for verification.

Step 6

Wait for approval. The county health department may take up to 35 days to approve your application and issue an MMJ card. Once the card is in your hand, you are allowed to purchase from medical marijuana dispensaries.

What Is The Price of a Medical Cannabis Card in California?

While the cost of the application fee for a Medical Marijuana Card varies by county, there is a maximum cap of $100. Medi-Cal beneficiaries will pay up to a maximum of $50 as they are eligible for a reduced rate.

You will also need to pay a fee for the health evaluation from a California medical marijuana physician. This cost can be as low as $39, as most practitioners tend to charge no more than $100 to review your health history and provide a recommendation, if eligible.

As an alternative to a traditional doctor appointment, you may also get your referral by connecting with a certified practitioner through a telemedicine appointment. The fee for an online appointment will generally be lower than a traditional in-person one.

What Health Conditions Are Included In The MMJ Card Program?

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, majority of health conditions that are eligible for medical marijuana use are those that limit a person’s ability to carry out essential life activities such as eating or moving freely. Physicians may also write an official recommendation for conditions such as chronic fatigue or deep depression.

If you are a California resident and are affected with one of the below conditions, you are eligible for a medical cannabis card:

  • Anorexia
  • Arthritis
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Cancer
  • Cachexia [wasting syndrome]
  • Anxiety
  • Chronic pain
  • Glaucoma
  • Radiations side effects
  • Severe nausea
  • Anorexia
  • Migraine headaches
  • Persistent muscle spasms
  • Seizures, including, but not limited to, seizures associated with epilepsy

How to Renew Your California Medical Marijuana Card

After an initial validity of 12 months, a Medical Marijuana Card will need to be renewed, but it’s important to start the renewal process before the expiry date. This can be done online, and you will need to follow the same steps as when you obtained the card the first time:

  • Schedule a physician consultation, either in-person or online
  • Go through the medical evaluation process and obtain an updated doctor’s recommendation.
  • Fill out the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Medical Marijuana Program Renewal/Application Form (CDPH 9042) and submit your application at your county of residence

It may take up to 30 days to renew your MMIC, so make sure you begin this process in advance and before your previous card expires. Once the renewal is complete, you will receive a new user identification number and MMIC card, which will allow you to purchase marijuana from medical dispensaries for another 12 months.

What Products Do California’s Medical Pharmacies Sell?

Medical cannabis pharmacies can be accessed only by those who hold a California Medical Marijuana Identification Card. Due to the perks given by the card, these patients can access a wide array of products, including:

  • Drinks
  • Vapes
  • Dyes
  • Lotions
  • Topical Medical Cannabis
  • Flower of MMJ
  • Foreword
  • Medical Marijuana Concentrates
  • Power Supply
  • Edible Medical Cannabis
  • Extracts
  • Indica

Frequently Asked Questions

What Requirements Do I Need to Meet to Obtain a California Medical Card?

While medical marijuana is legal across the state of California, you will need to meet specific requirements before accessing a medical dispensary. You must ensure that your health condition qualifies with the requirements of an MMIC: Glaucoma, Arthritis Chronic Pain, Migraine, Multiple Sclerosis, Epilepsy, Spasms, Cancer, HIV/AIDS, Side Effects of Radiation Therapy, Chronic Illnesses.

To validate the eligibility of your medical condition and apply for a medical marijuana card, you can follow three simple steps:

  • Call 1-855-MMC-CARD (1-855-647-2273) to request more information
  • Fill out the required application form at www.mmc.ca.gov  
  • Attend your appointment at a physician’s office within your area to obtain the required medical recommendation letter.

Can You Get a Medical Card in California at 16 Years Old?

At 16 years old you may apply for a medical card. In some areas such as Golden State, individuals below 21 years of age can apply for an MMIC upon a doctor’s recommendation. If unsure, it is best to rely on the help of the primary caregiver, whether a parent or a guardian.

Where Do I apply for an MMIC?

You can only apply for an MMIC through your county office program. Remember that physicians are not allowed to process any MMIC application or release identification cards.

How Long Does An MMIC Take To Be Issued?

After submitting all required documentation, the county office takes between 30 to 35 days to verify your application and, if successful, release an MMIC to you. In case of missing documents, the process may take longer.

What is The Validity of an MMIC?

An MMIC card is valid for up to 12 months.

How Can I Appeal a Denied Application?

If the county’s office has denied your application, please visit the Appeals webpage to learn more and submit your appeal request form.

Am I Required to Include Copies of My Medical Records?

No. Your original application form will include all the necessary medical information. Your physician will use the Written Documentation of Patients Medical Records Form to describe your health condition in detail and recommend the use of marijuana if deemed appropriate. A copy of this form will be kept at your physician’s office for the record, while the original will be submitted to your county office for the MMIC.

What Information Does The MMIC Show?

Once you receive your new MMIC card, you should expect to see the following information:

  • Photo ID
  • A unique ID number
  • Your county program’s name and phone number
  • Email address
  • Cardholder title – either “Patient” or “Primary Caregiver”
  • Expiration Date

Can I Use My MMIC Valid in Other Counties Within California?

Yes. Your card can be used across the entire State’s registry program.

How do I Replace a Stolen, Damaged, or Lost MMIC?

Contact your county program to learn more about the next steps and any necessary fees. Find your county program here.

What Serious Medical Condition(s) Qualify for an MMIC?

Serious medical conditions are outlined by Senate Bill 94, and include the following: glaucoma; cancer; chronic pain; persistent muscle spasms (e.g., spasms associated with multiple sclerosis); migraine; severe nausea; seizures (e.g., epileptic seizures); other chronic medical symptoms that prevents a person from conducting any major routine activity, causing harm to their safety, physical, or mental health.

Can I Buy Marijuana Without a Card?

Yes. If you are 21 or older, you can purchase marijuana by simply showing a government-issued photo ID. However, remember that each city and county may set specific rules regarding growing, selling quantities, or possession of marijuana products.

Are There Tax Payments Upon Purchase?

Yes. You are required to pay local, use, and sales tax after each purchase. If you are a state-authorized MMIC holder, you are eligible for tax discounts or exemptions.


Medical Marijuana Cards are a safe and efficient solution for those who seek to access a wider variety of cannabis products to relieve serious health conditions, whether elderly or younger patients. Given the increasing expansion of the cannabis industry, it will be just a matter of time before more states open up their medical marijuana programs to more and more people, including those aged 18-20, who may still be subject to limitations. Joining the MMIC program is a further step towards a better access to marijuana for the benefit of one’s health and overall lifestyle.


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