When and How You Can Obtain Your Medical Marijuana License
Patients who believe that medical cannabis may help alleviate some of their symptoms should start with some research before heading out to get a license for legal use. Because there are no federal laws recognizing or regulating the legality of medical marijuana, the specifics of how this process works may vary greatly from state to state in the USA. There’s no easy answer to the question posed in this article, but luckily, it’s not that hard to find out the right answers based on your unique situation.
Step 1: Understand the State Laws Where You Live
The term “medical marijuana license” or “medical marijuana identification card” is used here as a catchall description for the legal certification required for medical cannabis usage. Some states may say “medical marijuana card,” “permit,” “license” or “recommendation.” One thing states can’t say is “prescription,” and doctors can’t say they’re “prescribing” this medication so that caregivers or patients can obtain the drug from a medical marijuana dispensary to treat chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, or post-traumatic stress disorders, just to name a few. That’s because the Department of Health states that doctors can’t prescribe medication that’s illegal under federal drug laws, which cannabis still is.
This is one of those legal technicalities that can seem so ridiculous to non-lawyers. A “recommendation” or “license” is, for all intents and purposes, the same thing as a prescription. You just can’t call it that. This is true in all states, regardless of the specifics of their local laws.
That’s just about the only thing that’s identical across all states with legal medical marijuana use programs. Each state has its own specific laws governing how this medicinal marijuana can be used and by whom. So, the first step is to learn what the laws are in your state and how they might apply to you.
Don’t read the law of another state and assume it applies to you. California was one of the first states to legalize medical marijuana use, and it’s also one of the biggest. Plus, a lot of media is headquartered there. As a result, a lot of information about medical cannabis is specific to California. A person who lives in South Carolina, where only CBD usage is legal, could end up in jail if they follow the same laws that apply in California, where THC is legal for medical usage as well as CBD.
States That Don’t Have Medical Cannabis Laws
As of March 2019, so many states in the USA have either active or pending legalization programs that it makes more sense to talk about which states don’t allow for medical cannabis use than those that do. The four states in which marijuana use is illegal in all forms, including medical, are Idaho, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas. Patients hoping to obtain legal medical marijuana in these states aren’t necessarily out of luck; there are likely some activists groups working within those states to move local laws toward legalization, and if you’re able, you can volunteer to help.
Step 2: Find Out if You Qualify
The “when” part of the question addressed in this article’s title is another matter that can be highly variable based both on your personal situation and the laws in your state. The short answer is that you can obtain your medical marijuana license when you have a diagnosable medical condition that lines up with your state’s requirements and feel ready to pursue this option.
Most states have a minimum age requirement for medical marijuana licensure. In some, it’s 18, in others, it’s 21. That means that age is another factor in “when”—a 16 year old usually can’t apply for their own license. However, in some states, parents can apply for a license for their kids. Pediatric usage isn’t legalized in all states and not all doctors support it. The research into pediatric medical marijuana usage is quite positive, though, so this could change. In some states, kids can apply for their own licenses, but only with explicit parental permission.
Another factor in “when” can relate to children as well, only on the part of parents seeking a medical marijuana license. Unfortunately, there’s evidence to suggest that parents who use medical marijuana are discriminated against in child custody and other parental rights disputes that involve law enforcement, courts, or child protective services. If you’re in the midst of a tough custody battle, it may be best to wait until that situation is resolved to apply for your license.
Step 3: Find a Doctor
In most states, the last step toward obtaining a medical marijuana license is to visit a doctor and get approved. Depending on where you live, it may be legal to see a doctor online. The doctor who grants you your medical marijuana license doesn’t need to have been treating you for long. In fact, in some cases, it can be someone you see only once.
When you speak to a doctor, you’ll need to have a valid form of government ID, usually a passport, driver’s license or state identification card. Again, this is variable by state. Be ready to explain your situation to your doctor. For your own sake, don’t lie about your situation when you’re talking to the doctor. Most doctors are very sympathetic about who qualifies for a medical marijuana license, but if you ever need to defend yourself in a legal context, you’ll want to be able to prove that the license was administered for a valid medical reason.
Be aware, too, that understanding what is and isn’t considered a valid legal justification for licensure can vary by state. If you give the wrong reasons to your doctor, they won’t be able to grant you a license.