Explained

Frequently asked questions about getting a California state medical marijuana ID card

ID card

Lots of recreational shoppers in California are trying cannabis over-the-counter for medical and wellness purposes. | Photo by David Downs

So, we’ve explained how you can save a bundle on California cannabis by obtaining a state Medical Marijuana Identification Card, but you still have questions.

No problem. Here are the most frequently asked ones:

All I need is a doctor’s note to get a state ID card? I don’t have to prove my qualifying condition to the state?

That’s right. Your doctor’s note for cannabis is proof of a qualifying condition. You should not have to give the state more proof of eligibility than that.

To repeat: that embossed 8.5” X 11” paper document you got from the cannabis evaluation office will qualify you for the state ID card. The medical evaluation does not have to be from a family doctor.

What information will the Medical Marijuana Program keep on file?

None, really. The state of California takes medical privacy very seriously. It’s the law.

From the City and County of San Francisco: “We will give back to you all application materials when we issue the [Medical Marijuana Program] card. The San Francisco Health Department will not keep any identifying information. The only information transmitted to the State Medical Marijuana Program is your photo, your card type (e.g. patient or caretaker) and the expiration date of the card. This information is contained on the MMP card.”

What’s a caretaker?

Sometimes a patient is too sick to take care of themselves. A caretaker can be designated to obtain and possess medical cannabis on behalf of the patient. Ask your cannabis clinician and check county rules on designating a caretaker.

What do I need to do to get a new card if my card is lost or stolen?

It depends on the county. For example in the City and County of San Francisco: “To replace a lost or stolen card, you must reapply following the same procedures listed above. Since San Francisco DPH will not keep any application materials after the original card is issued, you must submit all application materials. We recommend that you keep a record of the physician’s recommendation form or letter so that you can use the original letter to reapply if your card is lost or stolen.”

What do I need to do to get a new card if my card expires?

It depends on the county. For example in the City and County of San Francisco: “To get a new card, you must reapply following the same procedures listed above.”

What other taxes do I have to pay at the register?

Cardholders will still have to pay the new state and local “excise” taxes of 15 percent (state) plus 1-20 percent (local), depending on where they shop.

I still cannot afford medical cannabis, what should I do?

Don’t despair, you have several options. Adults 21 or older can gift up to one ounce to each other. Many shops offer “compassion programs” with free or discounted medicine to the needy. You can also legally grow your own on private property (subject to local restrictions), and it’s also legal to form a non-profit collective to collectively cultivate and share cannabis.

More questions? Comments? Great! We’ll take them via email ddowns@sfchronicle.com or via message to our Facebook page.