Clarifying California's Rules About Medical Marijuana Cards

click to enlarge Photo by David Downs Harborside CEO Steve DeAngelo checks ID on Jan. 1, 2018.

Occasionally, readers send us their questions about cannabis. This week, we tackled one about medical marijuana cards.

Dear Legalization Nation,

If I have a county-issued medical cannabis ID card, is it legal for a dispensary to insist that I give them a copy of my doctor’s recommendation letter? The manager of a dispensary said that it is a legal requirement for them to have a copy of my recommendation letter. I went online to try to find where it is written. Alas, I couldn’t find any such thing. What I did find is an either/or situation where the law says that one or the other is required.



Dear M, 

You’re totally correct — a valid state medical marijuana ID card is the gold standard for admittance into a medical club. A doctor’s recommendation is far more common and usually sufficient. But everyone is confused because it’s confusing, especially since commercial recreational sales began on Jan. 1.

Most people used to get a doctor’s “recommendation” (not a prescription) to buy marijuana. These cards usually expired in one year and cost anywhere from $30 to $100. It often came on a sheet of paper with an embossed seal, as well as on a pocket-sized card. This “recommendation,” plus a driver’s license, was required to walk into a dispensary.

What almost no one had, or has, is the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Medical Marijuana Identification Card. Only 6,172 people — in a state of 38 million — got the more formal state ID card in 2017. That’s because it isn’t mandatory, and it’s a total pain to get.

To get the state’s Medical Marijuana Identification Card, you need to: 1)

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