The Basic Steps for Applying for an MMJ Card
Today, getting your hands on a medical marijuana card is easier than ever before. Since medical marijuana is now legal in most of the United States, the requirements for obtaining an MMJ card are more clear-cut and straightforward than ever before. Joining your state’s medical marijuana program is the first step to participating in the legal marijuana market; once you receive your MMJ card, you will be able to shop for products from licensed dispensaries.
Possessing a medical marijuana card is not only about being registered to receive the drug; it’s also a matter of common sense and legality. If patients don’t possess an MMJ card in their respective state, and the state is not one of the ten that have made cannabis legal on a recreational level, then they are using the drug illegally in accordance with both federal and state law. If you use marijuana illegally, you may be subject to harsh criminal and civil penalties, the severity of which will depend on the state that you reside in.
Furthermore, the laws and requirements for obtaining a medical marijuana card differ from state to state, but most follow the same basic steps; after receiving an evaluation, doctors recommendation, and an MMJ card through a registry process, patients can legally use medical marijuana. So what does this process entail? Let’s take a closer look.
How to qualify as a medical marijuana patient
Any person who suffers from a serious or chronic medical condition for which other conventional medications have not been effective, may be able to see a qualifying physician who can write a recommendation for medical marijuana (MMJ card). Of course, this recommendation would act as part of the ongoing treatment for the patient’s debilitating condition.
After completing a physical examination and documenting the specific medical condition in the patient’s records, the doctor will provide a written recommendation stating that the patient could benefit from the use of medical marijuana. (It’s important to note that a recommendation is different to a doctor’s prescription that may be filled out at a pharmacy).
Since marijuana is of course classified as a Schedule 1 drug under federal law, doctors aren’t actually allowed to “prescribe” it, but rather they are allowed to supply patients with a “medical recommendation” that complies with state law. This allows the patient to either buy from a dispensary or a supplier (or sometimes grow their own) in specified quantities.
1. Research your state’s medical marijuana restrictions and legislation
As of 2018, there are 30 U.S. states (plus the District of Columbia) that allows for the use of medical marijuana via MMJ cards. Some of the most well-known states that have legalized medical marijuana include California, Florida, New York, Washington, Vermont, and Colorado.
Each state has their own unique list of medical conditions that have been approved for an MMJ card. This means that while your specific condition may be approved for the use of medical marijuana in one state, it’s possible that it isn’t in another. The most common conditions that have been approved in each state include:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Muscular dystrophy
If you are searching for a list of medical conditions that qualify for an MMJ card, your state’s health and human services office should be able to provide you with one.
2. Find a doctor
You will need to be approved by a physician (or in some states a Physician’s Assistant or ARNP) that medical marijuana can help treat your specific medical condition. This isn’t necessarily an easy step, because each doctor is different and some are more convinced by the health benefits of marijuana than others.
In some cases, your primary physician may know next to nothing about medical marijuana, and overcoming their “stubbornness” will be a key hurdle in obtaining your MMJ card.
Furthermore, most doctors will require you to provide your medical history/medical records and list your specific illness or condition that would be alleviated through the use of medical marijuana. Therefore, you should ensure that you can access your medical records before you make your doctor’s appointment.
In most states, there are directories of medical marijuana doctors available online if you’re looking for one; once your doctor agrees that you qualify for the use of medical marijuana, they will give you a written recommendation that you can use to secure your card.
What type of healthcare provider can recommend an MMJ card?
Any licensed physician, including a general practitioner, can write a recommendation for the use of cannabis as long as they are affiliated with their respective state’s MMJ registry. It’s generally suggested that you first talk to your primary physician about their “stance” on cannabis, but if this isn’t successful, there are doctors in most states who exclusively see patients for medical marijuana evaluations.
Also, in some states there are other types of healthcare professionals that are allowed to recommend cannabis for an MMJ application. Some of these types of healthcare professionals include:
- Physician Assistants (PA)
- Naturopathic Physician (ND)
- Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner (ARNP)
3. Fill out an application form
While there are some states that will allow you to apply for an MMJ card based on a doctor’s recommendation alone, most states will require you to fill out a supplemental application form and submit it to the state for approval. While requirements vary from state to state, most will ask for basic information such as name, address, and phone number. You will also usually be asked to provide information regarding your specific condition, as well as your medical history.
Your doctors’ recommendation should be submitted along with your application form. In some states, you are able to drop your application off at your county health department or health services department, while in other states you can simply mail it off to your state’s health department, or even process the application online.
4. Provide proof of identification and residency
In most instances, you will also need to provide proof of identity and residency along with your application. This will typically come in the form of a driver’s license or passport, though in some instances mortgage agreements, utility bills, or other forms of documentation that prove you actually live in the state in which you are trying to obtain an MMJ card will be accepted. If you don’t have any form of identification, you won’t be able to move forward with the application.
5. Prepare payment
In nearly every state that allows for the medical use of cannabis, there is a payment associated with obtaining your MMJ card. Typically a state will require that you pay an application fee when applying for your medical marijuana card (a fee that usually runs around $100), though in some states there are waivers available for low-income or disabled applicants.
6. Wait for approval
Once you have submitted all of your documents, the state will take a few weeks to review and approve your application. Be aware of the timeframe in your specific state so that you know how long you should expect to wait.
Some states, for example, process applications relatively quickly, while others that have only recently legalized medical marijuana could take weeks (or even months) to process and approve an application. Once approved, there is a waiting time to receive your card, and you can either have your card mailed to you or pick it up at the state health department.
What is the next step after receiving my MMJ card?
Once you have received your MMJ card, you are (depending on specific state laws) legally allowed to buy, possess, consume, transport, and even grow marijuana – up to limits that have been specified by the state. The most favored way to obtain medical marijuana is of course through a licensed dispensary, but many states will allow patients to use a personal caregiver for the purchase and delivery of their meds.
If you are thinking about getting a primary caregiver, make sure that you know and understand the rules and regulations surrounding the caregivers in your state, and choose someone that you trust to provide your medicine.
Hopefully, this guide has given a basic understanding and overview of the basic steps required in obtaining an MMJ card. Medical marijuana has proven to help alleviate pain and symptoms associated with many chronic medical conditions that cause patients much suffering. We can only hope that marijuana will be fully legalized in the near future.
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