Getting a medical marijuana card is easier than ever now that medicinal marijuana is legal in a majority of U.S. states. What's more, 64% of Americans say recreational marijuana should be legal across the U.S.
A medical marijuana card provides for the use of marijuana for a variety of illnesses and afflictions, providing some relief to long-suffering individuals. Marijuana remains illegal under federal law and the Federal government doesn't recognize any medical value for it. However, a medical marijuana card enables the recipient to avoid civil and criminal penalties at the state level, depending upon the state they live in. Having a card enables registered users to obtain marijuana through state-approved dispensaries, wellness centers and health clinics.
Applicants for a medical marijuana card can gain approval for marijuana usage via a state-approved medical specialist with a medical cannabis license. Once they are cleared by the specialist or physician, applicants can legally buy marijuana through state-approved suppliers to help them alleviate pain and suffering due to illness, disability, mental health issues, and injuries.
Expect to pay a fee (for example, Pennsylvania charges $50 for its medical marijuana card.)
How to Getting A Medical Marijuana Card: 6 Steps
Getting a medical marijuana card involves several key action steps, and it's important that applicants check off all the items on their "step list."
1. Learn your state restrictions and legislation for medical marijuana
As of 2018, nearly 30 U.S. states, plus the District of Columbia, allow the use of medical marijuana via medical marijuana cards, in various forms and under various rules. The states are as follows:
Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington (and Washington, D.C.) and West Virginia.
Know the rules and regulations of your state on getting approved for a medical marijuana card. Each state has its own unique stance on the medical marijuana approval process, and you'll want to know in advance what hurdles you'll need to clear.
For example, it's helpful to know in advance whether your state even allows you to get a medical marijuana card for the condition you plan on asking about. Arizona considers cancer, glaucoma and Crohn's disease, among others, to be qualifying conditions for medical marijuana. But it doesn't have as long a list as Connecticut, which includes sickle cell disease and ulcerative colitis - two that Arizona doesn't. In New Jersey, you may be able to get a medical card for anxiety. In New York, you can't. If you're not sure if your state covers your condition, check first.
To learn more about states with legal marijuana, read our comprehensive guide: Where Can You Legally Get Cannabis?
2. Get your medical records together
Most states will require you to provide medical records and to list any illness, disability, or injury that would be alleviated through the use of marijuana. That also means getting a signed physician's statement that recommends the use of medical marijuana for your specific condition. Typically, your physician will need to work directly with a state's department of health and/or human services to file the correct paperwork.
3. Provide proof of residency
You'll also need to produce some proof of state residency, like a driver's license or passport, as most states will require you to be a state resident to qualify for a medical marijuana card. Without having some form of ID, you won't be able to move forward.
4. Know what conditions are approved for medical marijuana
You'll need to know what health conditions are usually approved for a medical marijuana card. Your state's health and human services office will likely have a list of medical conditions that qualify for a marijuana card. Typically, that list will include the following illnesses or conditions: glaucoma, cancer, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, post-traumatic stress disorder, and epilepsy.
5. Receive recommendation from a medical doctor
You'll need to be approved by your physician that medical marijuana will help alleviate the pain and/or discomfort of your specific health condition. This isn't always easy, as doctors are unique and some aren't convinced that marijuana offers the pain relief advocates say it does. Overcoming that hesitancy from your physician will be a key hurdle to clear to earn your medical marijuana card, and it will be critical to bring all the facts to the table to convince your doctor that medical marijuana is a "must have" for your medical condition.
6. Update your medical marijuana after a time period
In many states, medical marijuana cards are only active for a specific period of time, like one year. In that scenario, you'll have to re-apply for a card after its expiration date. Check with your state health department for time limits on your medical marijuana card.
Why the Need for a Medical Marijuana Card?
Getting a medical marijuana card in states that don't allow the use of recreational marijuana is a necessity for one key reason -- using marijuana is illegal. Depending on the state where you reside, using marijuana illegally is usually treated as either a misdemeanor or a civil charge, but both come with potential fines and potential jail time for repeat offenses.
Consequently, having a medical marijuana card clears you, at the state level, for the legal use of marijuana for medical reasons. With the card, you're properly registered with your state and can use marijuana with any fear of potential legal issues or law enforcement intervention at the state level.