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How To Get A California Medical Marijuana Card (CA)

Dr Abraham Benavides


Dr Abraham Benavides

Medical Doctor

Interested in getting a medical marijuana card in California? You’re in the right place!

After hours of research, we created this handy guide to help you along the road to becoming a medical cannabis patient.

Here you’ll discover the ins and outs of California’s medical marijuana program in 2023.

Read on to find out how to get a medical marijuana card in the Golden State.

California weed card

California Medical Marijuana Program

California has the longest state history with cannabis. In 1996, voters passed a landmark bill: Proposition 215

With this legislation, known as the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, California became the first state in the nation to approve medical cannabis use.

Prop 215 gave protections to patients and their doctors. Patients with serious illnesses would be safe from legal ramifications when it came to marijuana use. And doctors would be protected when recommending medical cannabis.

In 2003, the medical marijuana law underwent a modest overhaul. Senate Bill 420 (SB 420) was introduced and instituted a few changes to the California Compassionate Use Act.

SB 420 ordered the California Department of Public Health to establish the Medical Marijuana Identification Card Program (MMICP).

The MMICP was designed to create an online registry and verification system for all qualified patients and caregivers. Its purpose was to provide law enforcement with a way to approve the validity of MMICs.

In 2017, medical cannabis laws improved with further revisions. California Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 94 into law.

SB 94 enacted the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA). The act established recreational cannabis legalization. It also created cannabis taxes and systemized industry regulation.

MAUCRSA provided new benefits to medical cannabis patients. All medical patients in the MMICP became exempt for use and sales taxes on all MMJ purchases.

CA medical weed

What Can You Buy as an MMJ patient in CA?

Medical marijuana patients are allowed to possess up to 8 ounces of dried cannabis.

However, patients can be permitted a larger possession limit. They’ll just need their medical marijuana doctor to recommend a higher quantity of cannabis to meet their medical needs.

The types of cannabis products a patient a buy include:

  • dried flower
  • concentrates (shatter, wax, rosin, extract)
  • edibles
  • capsules
  • tinctures (sublinguals)
  • topicals (balms, lotions, sprays)

Recreational users, on the other hand, are allowed a much smaller purchasing limit. Adults over 21 can possess up to 1 oz of dried cannabis or 8 grams of concentrate. If you possess 0.5 oz of flower, you can only have 4 grams of concentrate.

California Medical Card Requirements

To be eligible for a medical marijuana card you’ll need to meet a few prerequisites.

You need to be a legal resident of California and be over 18.

Patients under 18 must have a primary caregiver who is at least 18 years old.

In sum, to qualify for a medical marijuana card, you must:

  • Be over 18 or have a primary caregiver over 18
  • Have a qualifying medical condition
  • Provide a valid government issued ID card or birth certificate if under 18
  • Provide primary caregiver’s valid ID, if applicable
  • Provide proof of residency
  • Submit a written recommendation from a licensed physician recommending the use of MMJ for your specific medical condition
  • Complete a medical marijuana application to the CDPH (voluntary)
  • Pay the application fee (non-refundable)

Acceptable Proof of County Residency

  • Current utility bill, rental or mortgage receipt in your name showing your current county address
  • Current DMV motor vehicle registration in your name showing your current county address

Acceptable Types of MMJ Recommendations

California Medical Marijuana Qualifying Conditions List

To qualify for medical marijuana, you need to have a serious health condition.

Here’s California’s list of approved medical conditions for which MMJ can be prescribed:

  • Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
  • Anorexia
  • Arthritis
  • Cachexia or wasting syndrome
  • Cancer
  • Chronic pain
  • Glaucoma
  • Migraine
  • Persistent muscle spasms, such as those characteristic of multiple sclerosis
  • Severe nausea
  • Seizures, including those characteristic of epilepsy

If you do not have one of these conditions specified on the state approved list, you may still qualify!

Your cannabis doctor can recommend cannabis to alleviate a chronic or persistent medical symptom that:

  • can cause severe harm to your physical, mental health or safety

  • significantly limits your capacity to perform one or more major life activities

How to Get a Medical Marijuana Card in California

Getting a medical marijuana card in CA is easy!

The first step is to schedule a visit with a board certified physician licensed to practice in CA.

Your licensed physician will determine if you’re eligible for medical marijuana. If you are, you’ll get a recommendation.

This can be done online or in person. A bit of advice: getting online is much cheaper!

Most well established telemedicine services have 100% money back guarantees. So in case you’re not approved, you’ll get your money back in full.

Follow this simple process to obtain your medical cannabis card in California:

1. Consult With An CA Certified Healthcare Professional

You must see a physician licensed to practice in CA. They must be board certified and hold a valid medical license.

Your attending physician will decide if the patient is eligible for medical marijuana.

This consultation can occur via telehealth or in office.

2. Receive Your Certificate

Upon approval you’ll receive a medical marijuana recommendation.

The certificate is valid for one year. It includes an ID number that allows the patient to visit California medical marijuana dispensaries immediately.

3. Apply For Physical CA Medical Card (Optional)

You can get a physical medical marijuana identification card in California. But it is not necessary. The state’s Medical Marijuana Identification Card Program (MMICP) is entirely voluntary.

If you want to benefit from not paying CA medical marijuana taxes and enjoy reciprocity you’ll need one.

Without a California medical marijuana card, you’ll owe state excise and sales tax on every cannabis purchase. Your certificate alone will not be accepted by other MMJ friendly states.

So if you want to reap these advantages, you must submit an application to the CDPH and get your medical marijuana card.

Be sure to present your card to medical marijuana dispensaries so you do not pay sales or use tax. 

How Can I Get My CA Medical Marijuana Recommendation Online?

Obtaining a MMJ certificate online is not only convenient, it’s quick.

It only takes a few minutes to get your certificate online.

We recommend checking out Leafwell or Veriheal. Both service California and offer MMJ certificates to qualifying individuals.

Plus these telemedicine services have a money back policy if you’re not approved.

How Much Does it Cost to Get Your CA MMJ Certificate Online?

If you are approved, Leafwell charges $49 for a certificate. Veriheal charges $199. 

However, Veriheal’s fee now also includes a free consultation with an expert cannabis coach like Dr. Benavides (our in-house medical reviewer) to help guide you.

CA Medical Marijuana Card Benefits

Lower taxes

Patients with a medical marijuana ID card do not pay sales or use tax on cannabis purchases. 

Recreational cannabis users must pay a 15% excise tax plus sales tax on every cannabis purchase. Needless to say, having a MMJ ID card will end up saving you tons of cash.

Medical Marijuana Reciprocity

If you have a valid medical marijuana card in CA, you can use it in states that accept out of state medical cards. This way you’ll save money shopping in and out of California.

Larger Number of Dispensaries to Access vs Rec Only

Patients have access to more dispensaries than recreational cannabis users. A California medical card allows patients to shop at medical and adult-use dispensaries. Recreational users can only shop at recreational dispensaries.

Can Consume Cannabis at 18

Being a medical marijuana cardholder means you can purchase medical marijuana legally at 18. MMJ patients don’t need to wait until they’re 21 to use cannabis.

Higher Possession Limits

Medical marijuana patients have larger possession limits. Patients can purchase up to 8 oz of dried cannabis flower a day. While recreational users can only purchase up to 1 oz.

Access to Stronger Products

Patients can purchase medical marijuana products, such as tinctures or topicals, containing up to 2,000 mg of THC. Adult use products are limited to 1,000 mg THC or less per package.

California Medical Marijuana Caregiver Requirements

Minors and patients who are unable to apply for a medical card by themselves can designate a caregiver. The caregiver will be able to purchase medicinal marijuana on their behalf.

In all, applying for a MMJ caregiver card is comparable to applying for a medical marijuana patient card. There’s just an additional step.

Primary caregivers must be included on the patient’s MMIC application. There is no separate application for caregivers. The patient will need to apply for a MMIC on their behalf.

When submitted, you must pay the designated caregiver fee which varies by county. Caregiver cards expire on the same date as their prospective patients.

To qualify as a primary caregiver, individuals must be over 18 years of age, a California state resident, and reside in the same county as the patients they’re caring for if more than one. 

Caregivers must be regularly responsible for the patient’s safety, housing, or health care. This care must be separate from assisting the patient with cannabis use. 

Caregivers should have started taking care of the patient before or at the time of applying.

In sum, to get a MMJ card, caregivers will need to:

  • Have a valid government issued ID
  • Be added to the patient’s application
  • Submit proof of residency (if caring for multiple patients)
  • Apply in person at the patient’s county MMICP
  • Have a picture taken at the county office
  • Pay the caregiver fee

How to Get a Caregiver Card in California

1. Fill Out a MMIC Application That Designates Yourself as Caregiver

You’ll need the patient you’re caring for to complete an application for a Medical Marijuana Identification Card.

The patient is required to list you as their designated caregiver. There is no separate application for caregivers. This application should be submitted to the California Department of Public Health.

2. Submit Medical Records, including the Patient’s MMJ Certificate

Medical records should be submitted with the MMIC application. This can consist of the physician’s recommendation for MMJ or the Written Documentation Form CDPH 9044.

3. Go to the County Office to Complete the Application

You’ll need to apply in person at the patient’s county program. Keep your government issued ID handy, as you’ll be required to show it to the county.

4. Pay the County Fee for MMIC Application

Lastly, you’ll need to pay the fee for a medical marijuana caregiver card. This must also be done at the county office. The fee varies by county but cannot exceed $100.

Can You Grow Medical Marijuana in CA?

Yes, but it comes with a few exceptions. California Senate Bill 420 allows medical cannabis patients to grow up to six mature or twelve mature plants.

However, some cities or counties let patients grow as many plants as needed, if their MMJ doctor recommends it.

Recreational users over 21 can only grow up to six plants.

Since certain places have special regulations for growing marijuana plants, check with your local jurisdiction to verify grow laws. Some places can ban home cultivation altogether.

Does CA Accept Out Of State Medical Cards?

Yes, in a sense. California does not have full medical marijuana reciprocity. So they do not accept out of state medical marijuana cards.

However, non-resident MMJ cardholders may apply for a Medical Marijuana Identification Card in California. You’ll just need to get a recommendation from a CA licensed physician first.

Curious if your state medical card will be accepted on your next trip? Take a peek at our informative article on Medical Marijuana Reciprocity Friendly States.

Wrapping Up: Medical Card CA

Getting a CA medical marijuana card is a pretty simple task.

Residents over 18 with a qualifying medical condition just need to follow a quick process to access medical marijuana.

Patients under 18 can also get a medical card in California. With the help of a designated caregiver, they’ll just need to follow a few more steps.

Though recreational cannabis is legal, having a medical marijuana ID card comes with many perks. From paying less to better access, MMJ patients enjoy some major benefits.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do You Have to be a California Resident to Get a Medical Card?

Yes. You must live in California to get a medical marijuana recommendation or apply for a MMIC card. Individuals are also required to reside in the same county they’re applying for a medical marijuana identification card from.

Can I Get a Medical Card at 18 in California?

Yes. Patients 18 years and older must qualify first.

Residents over 18 with a qualifying condition may apply for a medical marijuana certificate. If you meet these requirements you can also apply for a state ID card.

How Much Does it Cost for a Medical Cannabis Card and Certificate?

The total cost depends on the county you live in and how much you pay for the physician’s recommendation. The fee for a medical cannabis card in all California counties is $100 and under. 

For example, if you live in San Francisco County and get a certificate through Leafwell it will cost $149, this is because San Francisco charges the max $100 fee for a MMIC.

In San Diego, the total cost will be $93 with Leafwell. This is because San Diego County only charges $44 per medical card.

Do I Have to Apply for the CA State MMJ Program?

Nope. That’s entirely up to you.

Having a medical marijuana identification card is voluntary. But if you do opt for one you can save some cash buying weed in California. This is because with a medical ID card, you aren’t charged for sales and use tax.

Where Can I Legally Use Cannabis in California?

You are only permitted to smoke and consume cannabis on private property.

Always check with your landlord or lease before smoking at your residence. You are not allowed to use cannabis in public places such as public transportation, restaurants, parks, or hospitals. 

It’s illegal to smoke cannabis within 1,000 feet of schools or youth centers where children are present. Also, if you’re in a place where tobacco use is prohibited, so is cannabis use.

Note, cannabis is federally illegal so you cannot transport cannabis across state lines or have it on federal lands such as national forests or parks.

Are There Any Cannabis Lounges in CA Where I Can Consume Marijuana Onsite?


Certain cities such as San Francisco, Oakland, and West Hollywood have “cannabis cafes” or lounges where onsite marijuana use is allowed. You can legally consume cannabis on these premises. California is home to some of the few lounges in the entire country.

Can I Drive with Cannabis?

It’s illegal to drive with an open container of marijuana, medical or recreational.

If you drive with cannabis in your car, it needs to be in the trunk or placed in a sealed container. If you drive under the influence of marijuana in California you can get a DUI.

Who Can Qualify as a Caregiver in CA?

Primary caregivers must be responsible for the patient’s everyday needs including health, safety and housing.

Caregivers can be parents, legal guardians or employees/owners of a licensed care facility i.e: home health agency, hospice, clinic, nursing home.

Do I Need to Submit Medical Records with my MMIC Application?

No. This is not a requirement. Instead, the MMICP provides a Written Documentation of Patients Medical Records Form. 

Your licensed physician should complete the form, state your qualifying medical condition and recommend you for cannabis use. The form should be submitted with your application. A copy should also be kept on file at your doctor’s office.

How Long Will it Take to Get My CA Medical Cannabis Card?

Upon submission of your MMIC application, the county is allotted 30 days to approve it.

Once approved, the county has an additional 5 days to provide you with your MMIC. If you are missing any documents or requirements, the county will contact you within 30 days. This may make the process longer.

Can I Apply for an MMIC Online Only?

No. You’ll need to print and fill out the MMIC application found online at the CDPH website. 

However you will need to apply in person at your county office and bring all the required documents. The office will need to verify your identity and take a photo of you for your California medical marijuana card. You’ll also need to pay the application fee in person.

Is My MMIC Recognized by other CA Counties?

Yes. The MMICP is a statewide registry program. Although you need to apply in your county of residence, the card will be valid and accepted in all CA counties.

What Type of Doctors Can Provide MMJ Recommendations In CA?

A medical marijuana doctor will need to be a healthcare provider that is licensed to practice in California. 

Currently, the physician must be licensed by the Medical Board of California, California Board of Podiatric Medicine, or Medical Board of California Osteopathic Medicine.

Can I Still Qualify for Medical Cannabis If I Do Not Have An Approved Health Condition?

Yes. If you suffer from a serious medical condition that is not included on the qualifying conditions list you may still be eligible for MMJ. 

Your doctor will need to specify that you have a chronic or persistent medical symptom that limits on or more of your daily activities on your medical cannabis recommendation.

Can I Reapply if My MMIC Application Is Denied?

Yes. In such cases, medical cannabis patients may file an appeal with the CDPH. The Denial Appeals Application is available online. There’s no fee to file an appeal.

What Personal Info Will Be Printed on My CA Medical Cannabis Card?

The following information will be displayed:

  • “Patient” or “Primary Caregiver” designation
  • Photo of the cardholder
  • User ID number of the cardholder
  • Expiration date of the MMIC
  • Web address to confirm validity
  • Name and number of the county program granting approval