How to Get a California Medical Marijuana Identification Card in 2021

Anthony Pellegrino

The information is provided for informational purposes only and does not relieve readers of their obligation to obtain qualified medical, legal or other professional advice.

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As was true in much of the country, marijuana was illegal in California for nearly 70 years. As a matter of fact, one of the first-ever drug raids in the country occurred back in 1914 in Los Angeles. A serious push to legalize marijuana in California first took place in the 1960s, following widespread usage by the beatnik and hippie culture adopted by the youth. Then, in 1975, cannabis was decriminalized in the state. 

After voters approved Proposition 215 in 1996, medicinal cannabis was legalized for California patients. This made it the first state to ever do so in the United States. Several unsuccessful attempts to legalize recreational marijuana were made throughout the years until Prop 64 was approved in 2016. 

Getting a medical marijuana card in California is a simple process with NuggMD.


How to Get an MMJ Card in California

Becoming a medical marijuana patient is quite simple in California. All you need to do is get a medical marijuana evaluation and be approved for a recommendation. 

Once your doctor issues your recommendation, you're a patient! Registration for a state MMIC isn't required, but some patients choose to do so for the extra legal protections. 

It costs only $39 to see a state licensed physician with NuggMD in California. Even better, you'll only be charged if you're approved for treatment, so there's no risk.


How to Get an MMIC in California

California also offers its patients special legal protections in the form of an MMIC. These are extra MMJ IDs that make verifying your patient status easy for anyone that needs to, such as the police. 

MMICs are issued by the California Department of Public Health. The instructions for obtaining one may differ depending on your county. You can find your particular county office here. Generally speaking, you'll need to call the county office and make an appointment. It's sometimes possible to complete this process online, but this isn't always the case.

You only need a recommendation to use MMJ in California, but an MMIC provides extra benefits.


To get the California MMIC, you'll need to provide the following documentation:

  • A completed MMIC application
  • A copy of your MMJ recommendation that states medicinal cannabis treatments are appropriate for the treatment of a condition that you suffer from 
  • A valid government-issued ID 
  • Many times, a photograph of yourself will be necessary. The county instructions may ask for something like a passport photo or even take your picture at the Department office.
  • Proof of residency in the particular county

Then, all a patient needs to do is pay the associated fees requested by their county. It's usually around $100 or so and is often a non-refundable deposit. Once everything is submitted, the state will conduct a verification of the patient's personal information. If everything checks out, an MMIC will be issued and subsequently mailed. 


What are the California qualifying medical conditions for cannabis use?

California has a list of 'serious' medical conditions. These are: 

  • Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS),
  • Anorexia,
  • Arthritis,
  • Cachexia,
  • Cancer,
  • Chronic pain,
  • Glaucoma,
  • Migraines,
  • Persistent muscle spasms, including those typical of multiple sclerosis,
  • Seizures, including those associated with epilepsy,
  • Severe nausea,
  • Any other chronic or perpetual medical condition that satisfies one of the following:
  1. Extensively restricts the capacity of the individual to conduct one or more major life activities that are formally defined in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990,
  2. Any medical condition that may cause serious harm to the patient’s safety or physical or mental health if not alleviated through medicine.
California has a list of qualifying conditions, but doctors can recommend marijuana for other conditions as well.

While California may have a designated list of qualifying medical conditions, Prop 215 is still in effect. This means that physicians can "ensure that seriously ill Californians have the right to obtain and use marijuana for medical purposes where that medical use is deemed appropriate" as long as they have "determined that the person’s health would benefit from the use of marijuana in the treatment of any illness for which marijuana provides relief," and can recommend it for such use.  

 

How to Get Your Medicinal Marijuana Recommendation Using NuggMD

The NuggMD recommendation process is quick and easy so that you can get to alleviating your symptoms using medical marijuana faster. All you need to do is the following

1) Sign-up on the NuggMD website.

2) Enter your personal information and details like your name, address, and date of birth.

3) Upload as much of your medical history as possible. 

4) Provide a payment method to be used if you are approved for MMJ use. 

5) Relax momentarily in the NuggMD virtual waiting room. 

6) Meet with the physician as soon as they are available. The full evaluation can take place virtually using the NuggMD telemedicine platform.

Afterward, your physician will need to finish up your recommendation if you're approved for MMJ use. As soon as it's ready, it will be emailed to you through NuggMD. It will come alongside detailed instructions to help you complete the registration process with the state. We understand that it can be a confusing registration process for some. Therefore, our customer support team is always available to help you should you need it. If you ever find yourself lost, feel free to reach out! 

California NuggMD patients who receive their MMJ recommendations only pay $39. And, if a patient isn't approved, the evaluation is free of charge! 

NuggMD's medical marijuana doctors are always happy to answer questions about your treatment.


What Can I Expect When Talking to my Physician?

Every MMJ evaluation stands on its own, so do not feel like there is any pressure to rush through it. You also shouldn't be afraid to ask your physician any questions regarding medicinal cannabis treatments. The physicians that partner with NuggMD are some of the most enthusiastic supporters of medicinal cannabis. They always strive to find the ideal treatment plan for every patient.

When you finally meet your doctor, some questions you might want to consider are:

  • What forms of cannabis and methods of delivery are best for me?
  • What about strains with high CBD concentrations?
  • How often should I use medical marijuana?
  • Do I need to worry about any particular interactions with any of my medications?
  • Should I be concerned about any specific side effects of MMJ?

When you're sitting with your doctor, be sure to let them know of any medications or health/herbal supplements you're taking. This way, they can be sure that medicinal marijuana treatments will not cause any unsafe drug interactions for you. 


California’s Cannabis Cultivation Rules

Like most MMJ programs, California has some limitations on marijuana cultivation for both recreational and medicinal users. You need to keep this in mind because illegal cultivation is considered a crime in California and could result in jail time. Nevertheless, small amounts of recreational marijuana cultivation are available for all Californians so long as they're 21 or older. 

When it comes to recreational use, residents are allowed a maximum of six marijuana plants at a time. When it comes to medical marijuana, most counties allow a maximum of 6 mature plants along with 12 immature ones but it really does vary by county. If need be, patients in some counties can also receive permission to grow larger amounts if it's shown to be within their reasonable medical demands. 

Personal marijuana cultivation rules in California vary by county.


Renters can only cultivate with the explicit permission of the property owner. Keep in mind that landlords are not obligated by law to allow you to cultivate marijuana. Many cities or local municipalities may have additional restrictions on cultivation, so it's best just to call your local city or county government and ask what their rules are.


What Kinds of Marijuana Consumption Methods are Available to California Patients?

At this point, there are many different MMJ programs throughout the country. Each state may have varying rules regarding the kinds and concentrations of cannabis products being sold to their designated patients. 

California has no limits in terms of consumption methods in its MMJ program. Patients can smoke it, dab it, or eat it using whatever method they'd prefer. 

Generally speaking, there are 3 primary ways to consume marijuana: 

  • Inhalation
  • Oral ingestion
  • Topical application

Let’s take a closer look at each.


Inhalation

By and large, the most popular way to use cannabis is by inhaling it, whether by smoking or vaping. Patients may use joints, blunts or bongs that are smoked, or they may use vape pens or dab rigs for concentrates, or tabletop vaporizers for flower. In other words, there are a lot of inhalation methods available.

There are several different methods for inhaling marijuana besides smoking it.


When marijuana smoke or vapor is inhaled, the cannabinoids within are absorbed by your lungs directly into your bloodstream. For this reason, you'll notice the effects of marijuana kicking in very quickly with inhalation methods. 

Marijuana effects will peak after 30 - 90 minutes following inhalation methods and last for several hours. Given its rapid onset, inhalation is a favorite of those medical patients seeking pain relief from cannabis. It's also a great method to use if you're trying cannabis for the first time, as cannabis's effects can wear off fairly quickly using this method. 

However, it should be remembered that smoking or vaping cannabis is not without its share of health risks. It's generally accepted that not smoking anything is ultimately good for the health of your lungs. Cannabis smoke, too, to some degree, is damaging to the lungs. Those patients who suffer from lung conditions such as asthma or COPD might worsen their health conditions by smoking weed.

California patients could also try using dry herb vaporizers if they want to avoid smoking. These are small devices that heat marijuana flower to just below its combustion temperature. Dry herb vaporizers can be found in both hand-held and tabletop models and have advanced significantly in recent years. It's now possible to find some dry herb vaporizers that can vape both flower and concentrates! 

If this sounds like a method you would be interested in, be sure to discuss it with your evaluating physician. Those patients who suffer from lung or breathing problems should also be sure to discuss other potentially safer formats like oral ingestion or topicals. 


Oral Ingestion

Eating cannabis is another very popular method of consuming it. Believe it or not, eating marijuana can actually produce a very different subjective feeling than inhaling it. When marijuana is smoked or vaped, delta-9 THC is absorbed by our lungs and quickly enters the bloodstream. In contrast, after eating an edible, THC is transformed into 11-hydroxy-THC in the liver before being absorbed into the bloodstream. The intoxicating effects of 11-hydroxy-THC are much more pronounced than that of delta-9 THC. Edibles can be very potent and very long-lasting. 

Marijuana edibles of all types are allowed in California. 


This means that your high may take a considerable amount of time to subside after eating an edible. It may take up to an hour or more for the effects to be first felt, where they can remain for 3 to 8 hours or more, depending on the dosage. The typical tolerance for edibles can vary dramatically. While 10 mg is a regularly suggested initial dose, a dosage as small as 2.5 mg can be adequate. If you're new to edibles and are unsure of your tolerance for them, always remember: “go low and slow.”

Don't be afraid to take a few attempts to find the right dosage for you. It's an unfortunately common mistake for rookie users to take a small dose, only to eat more after becoming impatient waiting for the effects to kick in. Then, when it finally does kick in, they feel severely uncomfortable when the dosage is inevitably too high. Given the potency of edibles, it's possible to take enormous dosages without necessarily realizing it. So, again, "go low and slow."

It's better to be safe than sorry with edibles. It's better to be patient than it is to take too much. The rule of thumb should be: you can always take more, but you can never take less. 


Topical Application

Not every patient is approaching medical marijuana in the same way. Many want the medicinal benefits without any of the psychoactive effects associated with it. For these patients, topical MMJ products are sometimes best. These are products, like cremes, salves and ointments that allow cannabinoids to be absorbed through the skin. This is a great method for those avoiding the intoxicating effects of weed because very little THC gets absorbed into the bloodstream through the skin.

Some patients prefer topical cannabis treatments such as salves, lotions and transdermal patches. 

That is unless the patient is using a transdermal patch, some of which do allow higher amounts of THC to be absorbed through the skin. In other words, some transdermal patches will make you feel high. Be sure to discuss this with your evaluating physician before using new topical cannabis products. 


What Does Marijuana Feel Like?

In general, it's relatively difficult to describe to someone who has never experienced cannabis's effects before. Most people are familiar with the stereotypical effects like getting the munchies and laughing a lot. There's a lot of truth to these stories. So much so that you should do yourself a favor and keep plenty of healthy snacks around for when you inevitably get hungry after smoking some weed. It's better to have something relatively healthy rather than a whole sleeve of Oreos or an entire bag of potato chips. Overall, a majority of people have a pleasurable experience with marijuana. This doesn't mean that some people don't dislike it for various reasons.

Munchies and giggles are common when using cannabis.


Ultimately, there's no real way to find out how smoking cannabis affects you until you try it for yourself. In the meantime, while you're still experimenting, be sure to plan pleasant, happy, and low-key activities for yourself for when you use marijuana. You should also always avoid drinking alcohol and using marijuana at the same time.

In general, the common side effects of cannabis use include:

  • Altered perception of time
  • Increased difficulty in concentration
  • Deep feelings of relaxation
  • Frequent bouts of laughter
  • Boost in Happiness
  • Boost or decrease in energy (depending on strain) 


What Do I Do If My Dosage Was Too High?

The most common side effect of too much weed is anxiety. More or less, anxiety becomes practically unavoidable when the dosage is too high. Unless you are a long-time, regular cannabis user, you should presume that your tolerance is low. Be careful with your dosages when you first start using marijuana. 

If you do find you've taken too large of a dose, remain calm. Remind yourself that it is next to impossible to take a lethal dosage*. Don't feel embarrassed about it either. It happens to the best of us. 

If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by the dosage recommended by your physician, be sure to contact them to have it adjusted. Keep in mind that dosages such as 2.5mg or 5mg are perfectly sensible for people new to cannabis. Don't hesitate to split the frequently sold 10mg doses up into several pieces. At the end of the day: 

START LOW AND GO SLOW! 

*Experts have never agreed on an instance where someone died of a cannabis overdose. But, it is possible to develop a condition called Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome. If you have unexpected symptoms such as severe vomiting, be sure to seek immediate medical attention.


What is Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome?

There has been an enormous boom in the quality of cannabis in recent decades. The marijuana being sold in dispensaries today contain some of the highest concentrations of THC in all its history. The kind of weed that is now standard among contemporary cannabis users didn't even exist 20 or 30 years ago. At the same time, instances of a poorly understood medical condition have been occurring following cannabis use. It's called cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS). It's still not known what causes or predisposes a person to CHS. Some suggest that the over-stimulation of the CB1 and CB2 receptors with substantial amounts of THC could be responsible.

CHS should not be taken lightly even though it's still extremely rare among cannabis users. It's a very grave medical condition that could lead to death in rare instances if not taken seriously.

When it does occur, CHS seems to do so in three separate stages: 

  • Prodromal: The initial stage of CHS can linger for several months or years in some cases. Patients will first notice symptoms of mild nausea and stomach pain following the use of cannabis. Ordinarily, many people use cannabis to treat these very symptoms. Many times, patients will continue to use marijuana because of this. Therefore, if you're experiencing consistent nausea or severe stomach pain while regularly using high-THC cannabis, you should immediately contact your doctor. 
  • Hyperemetic: If CHS develops further into the hyperemetic stage, patients will experience severe bouts of vomiting. These can be so persistent and severe as to cause dangerous dehydration and malnutrition. Some find that a hot shower provides relief. It's vital to get immediate medical attention at this point because constant vomiting can cause dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.
  • Recovery: Finally, the last stage is recovery. The only way to recover from CHS is to completely stop using cannabis. A few days after the patient stops using marijuana, the symptoms of CHS should stop. 

There's still no clear understanding of why some people develop CHS while many others don't. It's still a very rare condition. This means that you can't ever tell beforehand who will be the one to develop CHS. If you're a new user of cannabis, be patient at first and start with smaller amounts. Use only the minimum that your evaluating physician recommended for you before you understand your personal tolerances better. If you find yourself experiencing any symptoms that are particularly severe or out of the ordinary, be sure to contact your physician. 


NuggMD's Team is Here for You!

If you find yourself having trouble or needing assistance throughout the MMJ process, feel free to reach out to the NuggMD customer service team. We can be reached every day via live chat or by sending us an email. Representatives are available from 8AM to 10PM 7 days a week.

NuggMD's dedicated customer service team takes pride in giving our patients the most enjoyable and worry-free experience possible. It’s our mission to think outside the box and creatively solve problems so you can concentrate on healing.

Of course, we can't solve every problem. Here are a few organizations and contacts in California that can help with other cannabis-related issues:

California Bureau of Cannabis Control

2920 Kilgore Road

Rancho Cordova, CA 95670

Phone: (833) 768-5880

Email: bcc@dca.ca.gov

Hours of Operation: Monday-Friday; 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.


California Department of Food and Agriculture

1220 N Street

Sacramento, CA 95814

Phone: (833) 225-4769

calcannabis@cdfa.ca.gov


California NORML

https://www.canorml.org/contact-us/


Americans for Safe Access

https://www.safeaccessnow.org/california


ACLU Southern California

https://www.aclusocal.org/


ACLU Northern California

https://www.aclunc.org/home



Frequently Asked Questions


What is required to get a medical marijuana evaluation in California?

With NuggMD, you don’t need any special documentation other than a California state ID, driver’s license, or a U.S passport. If you've got medical records that can help your doctor better evaluate your condition, you should upload these during the signup process as well. 

If you're planning on applying for a state MMIC after your NuggMD evaluation (optional), you’ll need a doctor’s recommendation, your valid government-issued I.D., your photo taken at the county’s medical marijuana program office, and proof that you live in the county.


How much does it cost to get a medical marijuana card in California using NuggMD?

Fortunately for you, an MMJ evaluation using NuggMD is always free of charge if you don't qualify for treatment! If, however, you are approved for medical use, you'll be pleased to find one of the most affordable prices for an official MMJ annual authorization at only $39. Patients can also choose to receive a plastic wallet MMJ ID for an additional $20. 


Can I renew my California medical marijuana patient status using the NuggMD platform?

Yes, you can! And doing so would only cost you the same low price, $39. The renewal process is quick and easy and can be completed entirely online. Then, after a quick evaluation, NuggMD will issue you a new MMJ recommendation. Don't worry, you'll receive an electronic copy the very same day. After 5-7 business days, you'll receive your official written recommendation via snail mail as well. 


Will I need to pay any hidden fees or extra charges/taxes?

With NuggMD, you'll have nothing to worry about. We make our prices very clear and transparent from the get-go: $39 for the medicinal cannabis recommendation or $59 for the recommendation and the plastic ID card supplement. You won't need to worry about any other shipping fees or related charges. 


What are the benefits that come with a California MMIC?

MMICs come with several extra benefits and privileges compared to a simple MMJ recommendation. MMICs will give you the following:

  • An expanded ability to visit the many dispensaries throughout California.
  • MMIC holders do not have to pay the state sales and use taxes.
  • MMIC holders can carry more than an ounce of medicinal cannabis without being subject to arrest. 
  • MMIC gives holders with children expanded protection of their parental rights in the cases regarding child custody.
  • MMIC holders can possess up to 8 ounces of marijuana at one time. 
  • In some select California jurisdictions, MMIC holders can cultivate more plants than they otherwise could recreationally.
  • MMIC holders can purchase cannabis at the age of 18, whereas recreational users need to be 21 or older to purchase cannabis. 


Can I still qualify for the MMJ program if I'm younger than 21? 

Fortunately, you can. The minimum age for the program and for receiving a medical evaluation using NuggMD is 18.


What medical conditions qualify for medicinal cannabis treatments in California? 

The following are considered qualifying medical conditions for marijuana use: 

  • Anorexia,
  • AIDS,
  • Cancer,
  • Chronic pain,
  • Spasticity,
  • Glaucoma,
  • Arthritis,
  • Migraine,
  • Or any other medical condition with associated symptoms that cannabis can alleviate.


Is an MMJ recommendation the same thing as California MMIC? 

No, it is not the same. The bare minimum that is required to purchase MMJ at dispensaries is a medical marijuana recommendation issued by your physician. If they so choose, patients can opt to get an additional MMIC issued by the Department of Public Health. This is meant to be an additional layer of legal protection and proof of your MMJ patient status. MMIC includes all the information necessary to immediately verify their validity if need be. 

Nevertheless, it still may be wise to keep a physical copy of your MMJ recommendation on your person, or in your car in those cases, you need to quickly provide proof of patient status. For this reason, we make it possible to order multiple copies of your recommendation if you would like them. 

Those patients with MMICs also are exempt from the state sales tax on medicinal cannabis sales. In contrast, those patients without an MMIC are paying the same amount as recreational users. 


How can California residents receive an MMIC?

There is a separate MMJ ID that is available to California patients. That is the Medical Marijuana Identification Card (MMIC) that is overseen by the Department of Public Health. MMICs can be received by qualifying patients by applying with their county health department. 


Does my computer need to have a webcam to complete an MMJ evaluation in California using NuggMD?

No, not necessarily. Ideally, evaluating physicians would like to conduct their consultations face-to-face to best assess your medical conditions. If, however, it is not possible to use a webcam, an interview can be conducted over the phone. Note that other states DO require the use of a webcam.

Also, don't feel intimidated if you're not particularly adept at technology. If you stumble upon any confusing technical problems, feel free to reach out to our customer support team. We'd love to help!


What if I don't have a California ID? Can I still get a California MMJ card?

Yes, even without a California ID, you can still become an MMJ patient in the state. Any ID from the U.S. can be used with NuggMD to receive an MMJ evaluation. As of this time, we cannot, unfortunately, accept or use any identification from any other country besides the United States. However, a U.S. visa that includes a photo of yourself along with your date of birth can be used.


How much marijuana are California residents and MMJ patients allowed to buy at one time?

California residents (meaning recreational users) are allowed to buy no more than one ounce of cannabis flower or 8 grams of concentrates. MMJ patients, on the other hand, have higher limits. They are allowed to buy up to 8 ounces of marijuana flower or an equivalent amount of concentrate, which can be up to 20 to 50 grams. 


Does my medical marijuana authorization need to be renewed? 

Yes, it does. The MMJ recommendations you receive through NuggMD are valid for a length of one year. Once this recommendation expires, you must renew it to continue to legally use medical marijuana in California. The good news is that our renewal process is straightforward and quick.


Can my California MMJ recommendation be used in other states?

Some states offer reciprocity to out of state patients and some don't. Some states that offer reciprocity only accept mmj cards from certain states. The only way to know for sure is to check the regulations in your specific state.


If marijuana is legal in California, does that mean I can't get fired for using it?

No, you always remember that you can still be fired for using cannabis, even now that it's been legalized. Prop 64 does not give workers any specific protections when it comes to using marijuana. Ultimately, if an employer decides to establish a drug-free workplace, then they can do so. This means companies can still drug test current or potential employees and fire those who test positive for cannabis use. Be sure to inquire about your workplace's policies regarding cannabis before you begin using it. 


What is the limit of plants that can be grown recreationally?

Currently, residents are limited to no more than six plants grown indoors. Not every town or city allows for recreational cultivation outdoors, but some do. Some areas seek to limit medical cultivation to six plants as well.


Can I give cannabis as a gift?

Yes, you can! The law allows California residents to give no more than one ounce of cannabis flower or no more than 8 grams of marijuana concentrate as a gift. You cannot, however, receive any sort of compensation for your gift. 


Can I smoke marijuana in public places?

Currently, no, you cannot smoke or use cannabis within public places. The law treats cannabis smoke the same as cigarette smoke, in that smoking in many areas is restricted. As a rule of thumb, if you cannot smoke cigarettes in a certain place, chances are you can't smoke weed there either. Nevertheless, there are some marijuana lounges and cannabis events that allow their patrons to smoke publically. Otherwise, you can expect to be limited to cannabis use within private homes.


Anthony Pellegrino

Anthony Pellegrino is a freelance journalist, writer, and content marketing strategist. He is currently studying to get his B.A. in philosophy at Fort Hays State University. He is a content creator for several marketing agencies, brands, and tech startups. His writing is focused on content marketing, technology, philosophy of mind, metaphysics, politics, career planning, and of course, cannabis. Academically, Anthony is focused on A.I., Consciousness, Social Sciences, and Philosophy.

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