The Process

The Process

In 2004, California’s Proposition 215 legalized medical marijuana as a treatment for pain, the side-effects of chemotherapy, and other medical ailments. To become a Medical Cannabis (Marijuana) Patient you must receive a written verifiable recommendation from a doctor. Once you have your doctor’s recommendation you can legally grow, consume and possess your medicine under California State Law Prop 215.

Patients and their caregivers are permitted to legally use, have, and grow cannabis for medical purposes. The law also protects not-for-profit collective and cooperative grow operations and allows primary caregivers to be reimbursed for the costs of their services.

To be a legal medical cannabis patient in California, all you need is a valid doctor's recommendation. There is a medical cannabis ID card system run by the state and several privately issued patient ID cards. A state-issued ID card is not required to be a legal patient, but it does look more official to the police.

Who Qualifies as a Physician?

Prop. 215 applies to physicians, osteopaths and surgeons who are licensed to practice in California. It does not apply to chiropractors, herbal therapists, etc. See a list of medical cannabis specialists. Prop. 215 requires physicians to state that they “approve” or “recommend” marijuana. Physicians are protected from federal prosecution for recommending marijuana by the Conant U.S. court decision.

What's Allowed

The CA state limits are: (6) mature or (12) immature cannabis plants plus eight ounces of dried cannabis per patient. Cities and counties can set limits that are higher than this limit, but cannot set lower limits. Also, the doctor's recommendation can specify that you need an amount of medical cannabis that exceeds the limits.

Eligible Conditions

A few eligible conditions include: AIDS, anorexia, arthritis, cachexia, cancer, chronic pain, glaucoma, migraine, persistent muscle spasms, seizures, severe nausea, and any other serious chronic or persistent medical symptom.


​Consume your medical cannabis responsibly (i.e., don't drive under the influence). That is still illegal. Also, don't use cannabis within 1000 feet of a school, rec center, or youth center. Don't smoke on a school bus.

Application Process / Doctor

There are both public and private entities that issue ID cards. ID cards are valid for one year, then should be renewed. Contact your local Department of Public Health. Again, you do not need an ID card to be a legal patient but you must have a official letter of recommendation from a medical marijuana doctor board certified doctor licensed by the Medical Board.

The letter of recommendation (aka Compassionate Card) allows you to purchase medicine from private dispensaries, allows you to legally possess, transport, and cultivate plants. Additionally, the clinic provides 24 hour patient verification so law enforcement and dispensaries can confirm you are in fact a medical patient in good standing.

When you go to a medical dispensary or club for the first time, you must bring the original version of your physician’s compassionate use recommendation. The dispensary will then verify with us that you are indeed a valid and current patient. They may do this by either checking on our secure online verification system or by calling the doctor's office directly to verify your status.

You don't have one, you can find a list of doctors familiar with medical cannabis at Under California's law, your doctor cannot be punished simply for having recommended medical cannabis.

Should I Get a State ID Card?

Patients are not required to get an ID card to enjoy the protection of Prop. 215, but a state card can provide an extra measure of protection against arrest. Patients and caregivers can obtain state ID cards through the health departments of the county where they live (except Sutter and Colusa). The state ID card system has safeguards to protect patient privacy. Police and employers cannot track down patients through the registry.

The Patients’ ID Center in Oakland ( offers ID cards for all California residents that are honored by many collectives and police. In addition, many doctors now offer ID cards that can be verified.

Finding A ‘Cannabis-Friendly’ Doctor Near You

When looking for a clinic to get your recommendation, it is important to seek advice from a reputable doctor, because after all, this is your health you are dealing with. The physician that you receive your recommendation from should be a practiced, and licensed with medical and research experience (preferably cannabis related). While these doctors cannot “prescribe” cannabis, they can “certify” or “recommend” patients use medical marijuana that meet the criteria to be a qualifying patient.

Although it is easy to walk into a green, 4/20 themed “clinic” on the Venice boardwalk and pay $40 for a five-minute evaluation, there are some factors you should consider before doing so. If you are a patient looking to get the maximum benefit from cannabis as a medicine, the relationship between yourself and your medical cannabis doctor should be respected as much as in any other medical circumstance. For this reason, we advise staying away from these types of places we’ll call, “bargain clinics.”

Another problem with these ‘bargain clinics’ is that many of their cut-rate deals come with fine print (as with all things that sound too good to be true). Many patients have visited clinics in search of a cheap deal, only to find that the advertised rate was for a month-long recommendation. These are exactly the kind of places that are going to go out of business in the future, and patients need to be weary of them. Not only are they ripping people off, some clinics close business without leaving a contact for follow-up verifications, invalidating their patient’s recommendations. These people do not care about the patient; they are only in it for the money. Identity theft is also a major concern because these illegal clinics have been known to sell off patient’s information on the black market. Ton’s of information from patient records is released into the public including copies of ID’s, addresses, and social security numbers.

Pick a Doctor That Is Reputable — Do Your Research

California’s NORML Guide to Medical Marijuana Physicians warns of these bogus clinics, and add that some are even selling “cultivation licenses” that purportedly allow the patient to grow more than the allowed quantity of plants. Be warned that there is no such thing as this license, and you have a right as a patient (under California law) to grow as many plants as you need for your own personal use. Although physicians cannot sell this mystical license, they can testify for you in court that a specific amount of cannabis (not plants) is consistent with your specific needs.

If ever faced with the unfortunate circumstance of having to defend your rights in court, you will fancy a doctor who is a quality health care provider testifying on your behalf. For this reason, it is extremely important to scrutinize your physician to ensure they are taking your health seriously, and giving you an accurate examination. The doctor should show concern for your general health, and should be asking questions about your diagnosis, prior experience with cannabis, and if you have self-medicated to help your condition in the past. Not only should the physician have a thorough understanding of the effects of cannabis on various medical conditions, but also about the ingesting, cultivating, and topical use of cannabis.

Doctors Recommendations Are Good For 365 Days

In addition to making sure that your physician is knowledgeable, there are a few other things to consider before signing the papers. As I stated before, some bogus clinics will try and sell one-month recommendations with all sorts of hidden fees. Be sure to clarify that the doctor’s letter of recommendation will be valid for a full year.

Make sure there are no extra fees associated with obtaining ID cards, or extra copies of the letter of recommendation. Furthermore, make certain that recommendations can be verified 24 hours a day (Online or by phone), and obtain a contact to reach out to for verifications if the clinic goes out of business. Many physicians are being investigated by the state on the account of law enforcement accusing them of operating illegally.

Unfortunately, dispensaries are the ones feeling the brunt force of the feds who are paying little attention to the clinics funneling customers to these dispensaries. Law enforcement needs to realize that these illegal marijuana clinics are the ones giving the California medical marijuana program a bad rap. After all, a dispensary must accept anyone with a recommendation signed by a doctor. They are not to blame for all the orders of Trainwreck to treat patients, “chronic back pains.”

You can check Americans For Safe Access for information regarding becoming a patient in your state.


Your medical information is confidential and protected under HIPPA. The medical cannabis ID cards do not show your name, address, or other sensitive information, though they do have a photo. Police and government agents can verify the legitimacy of the card.

Information source: and Americans for Safe Access (ASA)

Americans for Safe Access (ASA) has a mission to ensure safe and legal access to cannabis (marijuana) for therapeutic uses and research. ASA works with our grassroots base of over 50,000 members to effect change using public education and direct advocacy at the local, state, and federal level.

ASA focuses its efforts on training and educating patients, advocates, health care professionals and other stakeholders. On top of that, Americans for Safe Access also provides direct legal support and uses impact litigation to protect and expand patients’ rights.

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