Marijuana has been illegal on a federal level in the United States since the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. Although it was overturned after Leary v. United States in 1969 and repealed by Congress the following year, it was replaced by the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) in 1970. The CSA created five schedules with marijuana placed in Schedule I, which meant that weed was seen as a drug with a high potential for abuse and had no accepted medical use.
However, starting with California in 1996, various states passed laws to legalize the plant for medicinal or recreational use.
Today, most American states have legalized medical marijuana to varying degrees, as research shows that the plant has potential medical use.
Each state sets its own rules and regulations regarding medical cannabis use. This includes what conditions it can be prescribed for, what quantities it can be purchased in, and the process of obtaining an MMJ card.
In most medical marijuana states, qualifying residents must have an MMJ card to buy cannabis legally.
So, who can prescribe medical marijuana, and how do you get an MMJ card?
Who Can Access Medical Marijuana?
Unfortunately, you cannot just walk into a dispensary and purchase marijuana by claiming that you suffer from a medical condition.
Most state medical marijuana programs require a licensed physician to certify that a patient has a qualifying medical condition before the patient can access medical marijuana. These conditions can vary from one state to the next.
Here are a few of the conditions commonly approved for medical marijuana use:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
- Chronic pain
- Epilepsy and seizures
- Multiple sclerosis (MS) and muscle spasms
- Severe nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy
If you have a qualifying condition that means you’re eligible for medical marijuana, a physician can provide a recommendation within your state. This recommendation can then be used to obtain an MMJ card.
Who Can Prescribe Medical Marijuana?
Since marijuana is still a Schedule I drug, as per the CSA, it can’t be formally prescribed by anyone. Instead, licensed physicians can recommend usage, which entails a written declaration stating that the patient will benefit from medical marijuana as part of their overall treatment plan.
A doctor’s recommendation is necessary to obtain an MMJ card and buy marijuana at a dedicated dispensary.
Your regular physician may not be the best choice for obtaining a medical marijuana recommendation since many are not educated on the medicinal value of cannabis. Some may even be “old-school” and not open to the idea of using marijuana as a medical treatment.
Therefore, you may want to consult with a medical marijuana doctor. An MMJ doctor is a licensed physician who has a special interest in marijuana in addition to a formal medical degree.
Every medical marijuana state has strict rules with which MMJ doctors must comply. Typically, they must explain the potential benefits and risks of using medical marijuana to every patient.
They may also be tasked with establishing and maintaining a treatment plan that outlines the recommended dose and form of marijuana and documenting patients’ reactions or responses to the substance in follow-up appointments.
Several online companies will help put you in touch with an MMJ doctor. Many of them conduct online consultations, but if you prefer a face-to-face appointment, search “medical marijuana doctor near me,” and you can easily find one in your area.
How to Get an MMJ Card
Every state may have slightly different rules and processes for obtaining an MMJ card. However, the general process is similar.
- Step 1: Check your state’s list of qualifying conditions to determine if you can be approved for medical marijuana.
- Step 2: Consult with an MMJ doctor and obtain a written medical marijuana recommendation.
- Step 3: Register with your state’s medical marijuana program, and fill out an application. Most states allow you to apply online.
- Step 4: Gather and submit the required documents, including ID, proof of residency, and the doctor’s recommendation.
- Step 5: Pay the applicable fee. The price varies from state to state.
- Step 6: Wait to receive your MMJ card in the mail.
Alternatively, there are online companies like Veriheal that will help you through the process for a fee. Veriheal provides information on the qualifying conditions in each specific state, connects customers with MMJ doctors, and takes you through the steps of obtaining an MMJ card.
Moreover, they offer 24/7 customer service and promise your money back if you don’t receive an MMJ recommendation.
How Much is a Medical Marijuana Card Likely to Cost?
It all depends on where you live. Apart from the cost of applying for the MMJ card, you must also pay for a consultation. Typically, you can expect to pay between $50 and $100 for a medical marijuana card application, although this figure varies.
For example, there is no longer an application fee for New Mexico residents looking to get medicinal cannabis. The fact that NM has legalized recreational weed and allows adults 21+ to possess up to two ounces is one reason. However, MMJ cardholders in New Mexico can buy up to 15 ounces of dry flower in a rolling 90-day period, so it is certainly worth applying!
There is also a wide price range regarding the fee charged by an MMJ doctor. You can expect to pay anywhere from $100 to $300. Moreover, you must undergo the certification process in most states each year. Typically, physicians charge the highest fees in places with relatively new programs, although this is not always the case. If you’re on a tight budget, it is worth shopping around to see if you can save money.
Final Thoughts on Getting an MMJ Card
The majority of American states have approved the use of medical marijuana. Depending on your state’s rules and regulations, the process of obtaining an MMJ card may differ.
Generally, qualifying residents must get a medical marijuana recommendation from a licensed physician and apply for a card through the state’s online application program.
Check your state’s specific laws on medical marijuana and qualifying conditions for more detailed information.