Medical Marijuana (MMJ) has been prescribed by physicians for thousands of years. The healing properties of the cannabis plant have been known since antiquity but only recently have scientists been able to unlock the secrets of how. Unfortunately for many in the U.S., cannabis is a schedule 1 narcotic and has been since the early 1950s. This means that doctors in America are not allowed to prescribe cannabis or its derivatives. Doctors are allowed to recommend cannabis for relief of symptoms but the process is slightly different and requires obtaining medicine from a state monitored dispensary instead of the local pharmacy.

The process of obtaining a medical marijuana card varies from state to state and each state has specific rules about packaging, quantity, and potency along with differences in the specific permitting process. People interested in obtaining their medical marijuana card have several hoops to jump through and must disclose certain information to their resident state.

Also, since cannabis is still federally illegal, only some states offer MMJ programs. The states that do have a medical marijuana program are;

  1. Washington
  2. California
  3. Nevada
  4. Minnesota
  5. Delaware
  6. Montana
  7. Arizona
  8. New Hampshire
  9. Pennsylvania
  10. Rhodes Island
  11. New York
  12. Ohio (Just started MMP program 9/8/2016)
  13. Oregon
  14. Illinois
  15. Hawaii
  16. Alaska
  17. New Mexico
  18. Maryland
  19. Massachusetts
  20. Connecticut
  21. Colorado
  22. Michigan
  23. Maine
  24. Vermont
  25. New Jersey
  26. Washington D.C.

In Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and the District of Columbia, it is also legal for recreational use by adults. Guam, a territory of the US, also allows medical use.

The process of getting a Medical Marijuana card is somewhat straightforward with all of the information available online in states like Oregon and New York. In states like Ohio, the MMJ program has just started and they are still putting the rules and regulations together so information is understandably limited. While rules vary state by state, there are some general guidelines and steps to obtain a MMJ card.

Step 1: Be a resident

In order to qualify for any states medical marijuana program, a person must first be a resident of that state. An Oregon resident can only obtain a card in Oregon. Likewise, a resident of New Jersey (or any state that does not have a MMJ program) must move to and become a resident of a state that does permit medical marijuana in order to obtain a card. There is no cross state trafficking allowed at this point.

Oregon is the only state so far that bucks the trend on the issue of residency. Oregon is willing to issue cards to non-residents and about 600 or so people across the nation take advantage of this small loophole on an annual basis to renew their cards.

Step 2: Get a Medical Recommendation

Medical Marijuana programs are instituted by states to be medicine and as such, a medical need is required to begin the process of obtaining a card. Doctors are not allowed to prescribe cannabis because it is still a schedule 1 narcotic. A doctor can recommend cannabis if the patient believes it will provide relief for symptoms but the rules are complex.

It is important to note that even in states where MMJ is available, some hospitals do not allow their physicians to offer recommendations. For whatever reason, the medical groups may have a negative stance on MMJ and outright ban their physicians from recommending medical cannabis even if the doctor believes it would provide a benefit. If this is the case, contacting a specialized medical care group or 'cannabis doctor' dedicated to providing MMJ recommendations may be a good option.

The cannabis doctor determines if a person has medical conditions that qualify them for a MMP card. A few medical conditions that qualify patient for an MMP card are (but not limited to) chronic pain, cancer treatment, muscle spasms, seizures, etc…

Step 3: Register with the State

Most states have a series of forms, permits and fees that need to be taken care of before a card can be issued. These forms often include personal information and medical history. Obtaining the right forms and submitting the information to the correct governing bodies can be tricky if you plan to do more than consume.

Fees are normally in the hundreds of dollars per year but many can be reduced or waived under certain circumstances that change by state. If you are planning on doing more with your card than purchasing (i.e. grow yourself) the fees can jump into the thousands of dollars.

You will also need to obtain the correct permits from the state. For people just looking to obtain product from a dispensary, the permitting process may be short or even waived. Permits may only be necessary if you plan to grow your own supply or consume during work hours. Local police are often required to inspect potential grow sites during the permitting process for people who grow their own cannabis.

Step 4: Receive a card

Once you; are a resident, have your medical recommendation, and register with the state, the next step is to wait for your card. Many states offer a temporary card when you finalize the paperwork until the official one comes in the mail but in states like Ohio that have yet to finalize the rules of their MMJ program that may not be the case. Only time will tell.