Bay Area has wide range of options to get your medical marijuana card

medical marijuana card
Dr. Frank Lucido meets with his patient, Carla Newbre of Oakland, in his office in Berkeley. Dr. Lucido recommended medical cannabis for Newbre’s muscle spasms and pain. SOURCE: Michael Macor, The Chronicle

We review all the ways to get your cannabis card in 2017

Since legal sales of marijuana to any adult 21 and over will not begin until Jan. 1, 2018, in California, the state’s medical marijuana system remains the only way for most people to access cannabis legally.

But getting into one of the state’s thousands of pot shops always requires a “doctor’s recommendation” — not a prescription. A “recommendation” is just a note saying a doctor thinks you might benefit from the medicinal herb.

There are dozens of ways to get your recommendation, from your primary care doctor, to online clinics, to special booths at pot events that pop up around the state. The cost and experiences can vary enormously, from high-tech and a bit surreal, to an urban adventure.

Below we review the Bay Area’s premier, and less premier, medical cannabis doctors to see what the experience of getting your “rec” looks like now in the post-legalization era.



Online website and ap

Cost: $49 for consultation and medical recommendation

Clean: 4 of 5 stars

Inviting: 4 stars

Establishment age: 2 years

HelloMD began as a general health website, then two years ago went all-in on cannabis, becoming a network of doctors and users (and cannabis businesses promoting their wares). You can pick up simple medical information and clinic listings here, but Californians can also get nearly immediate online access to a doctor and a medical card recommendation. Once you join online and download the iOS app from iTunes or the Apple app store, the process is easy: You’ll fill out basic medical info, upload a photo and a scan of your driver’s license, then join a virtual queue. I waited about 15 minutes to video-chat with Dr. Ulin Sargeant, who gave me crisp, clear info on what kind of cannabis was suitable for my symptoms (insomnia, anxiety) — he even told me, a first-time user, “Don’t try this on a weekday.”). It was a bit off-handedly surreal, but I felt free to ask questions; Sargeant had a comforting video-side manner. And once we signed off, there in my inbox popped up a downloadable recommendation; the actual card arrived via mail in two days. — Kitty Morgan (

Meadow MD

Cost: $100

Inviting: 5 stars

Establishment age: 2-plus years

The days of putting on shoes to visit the doctor’s office are officially over. With Meadow MD, prospective medical-cannabis patients are but a few clicks and a credit card number away from a video consultation with a licensed physician. The 30-minute appointment is not only painless, but also informative. Lead physician Dr. Dan Price provides clear and in-depth feedback with keen professionalism. The site itself also features plenty of helpful information and tips, presented in sleek, graphical form. The doctor’s recommendation is sent via an encrypted email, ensuring consumer protection and confidentiality. Appointments are widely available. —Spencer Silva (; (415) 488-8952)


Cost: $40; $55 with plastic ID card

Clean: As clean as your living room: 5 stars

Inviting: 5 stars

Establishment age: Since July 2015

If telemedicine can bring doctors to remote corners of Alaska, it can bring a cannabis recommendation to your living room. EazeMD, connected to the cannabis delivery service Eaze, is a free mobile app for both Apple OS and Android devices. After entering your information into EazeMD, whose design is reassuringly minimalist, a doctor’s face appears on your phone to conduct a virtual consultation. Seconds after he or she approves the recommendation, you’re free to shop on Eaze; a paper copy follows in five to seven days. — Jonathan Kaufmann (No address or phone; 8 a.m.-10 p.m.; or find in the Apple app store or Google Play)


Cost: $69.99

Inviting: 4 stars

Establishment age: 2 years

An online evaluation couldn’t be more convenient — all you need is a computer with a webcam, a valid ID and a comfy chair. Presto’s site is well-designed and easy to navigate. After filling out the questionnaire and uploading a profile and ID photo, select the day and 10-minute window for your video conference. Log in to the virtual waiting room at the scheduled time and wait for the doctor to sign on for a live chat. Dr. David Nguyen’s evaluation was professional and informative. A temporary copy of the recommendation was emailed minutes later; the card arrives in the mail three to five days later. Good to know: As with a real waiting room, your evaluation may not start on time. — Deb Wandell (


MMJ Doctor

Cost: $69.99 for new recommendation (ID card $20 more)

Clean: ⅘

Inviting: 5 stars

Establishment age: 3.5 years

It may not be bargain-priced, but MMJ Doctor makes up for its $69.99 fee with excellent service — and efficiency. The friendly front-desk staff may answer questions you didn’t even know you had; the helpfulness of their advice rivals the doctor’s. Either way, the office provides an exceedingly comfortable environment. And if you don’t feel like shouldering the $3 ATM fee, they accept bitcoin. — Esther Mobley (1884 Market St.; (415) 554-0171; 11 a.m.-7 p.m.)

Priceless Evaluations

Cost: $95 for first-time patients; $75-$85 for renewal

Clean: 5 stars

Inviting: 4 stars

Establishment age: 6 years

Priceless Evaluations is a tiny storefront tucked away in the heart of the Mission District. Admittedly, it’s on the pricey side: A $95 evaluation gets you two copies of your recommendation and a plastic ID card. If you’re renewing your recommendation, make sure to check their website for coupons. Crowds at Priceless are minimal, with wait times usually under an hour for walk-ins. Once you get into the doctor’s office, you’re in and out in a matter of minutes. — Nastia Voynovskaya (2533 Mission St.;; (415) 970-2236)


Formerly SoMa, now digital-only

Cost: $150 for new customers, $90 to renew

Clean: N/A

Inviting: 3 stars

Establishment age: 7 years (est. September 2009)

Greenway’s Dr. Rachna Singh recently decided to pack up her Mid-Market practice and go online only. She now books virtual appointments through and a chat app that you download. This could be handy if you can’t leave the house, but may be too newfangled for the old-school patient. Recommendation printouts are available the same day. Dr. Singh can be difficult to reach as the number on the website only leads to a recording. — Ted Andersen (Formerly located in S.F.’s SoMa. Now virtual appointments booked online only;; (415) 777-0157)

Green Evaluations

Cost: $49 new patients, $39 renewals

Clean: 3 stars

Inviting: 3 stars

Establishment age: N/A

Getting your “green card” from a clinic on Haight probably feels appropriate for those who remember scoring dime bags in the nearby park. Add that the location is above ultra-cool Amoeba Records and you’ve got a great story for your next cocktail party. Evaluations are quick and no fuss: If you make an appointment you can probably make it out in a half hour and be back riffling the old vinyl in no time. —Tony Bravo (1855 Haight St.;; (415) 831-1032)


Medical Offices of Dr. Frank Lucido


Cost: $250 (Under 18, $600)

Clean: 5 stars

Inviting: 5 stars

Establishment age: 35 years (medical cannabis since 1996)
Dr. Lucido is one of the foremost medical cannabis experts in the world. Whether it be many of the industry’s top professionals or pediatric patients from across the country, people come from far and wide in search of his expertise. Dr. Lucido is also recognized as an expert witness on medical cannabis by the state of California, so when he’s not helping sick kids you can find him explaining plant counts and dosing to judges and juries. His Berkeley office is one of the warmest and most inviting you’ll find when getting your recommendation. — Jimi Devine (2300 Durant Ave., Berkeley;; (510) 848-0958)

Oakland 420 Doctor


Cost: $55 for six months; $80 for one year.

Clean: 4 stars

Inviting: 3 stars

Establishment age: 7 years

Oakland 420 Doctor is a straightforward, no-frills establishment. It is a reliable and relatively quick stop for a medical card — appointments are not required, and if you visit during daytime on a weekday, it’s unlikely you will have to wait in line. The environment is reminiscent of a government office building — not grimy, but less focused on ambiance than some other local options. The strictly business staff is fairly knowledgeable and not unfriendly, but likely won’t give you a warm, fuzzy feeling inside, either. Medical doctors are on-call to provide private consultations in a back room during most normal business hours, and their knowledge about medical cannabis options and laws is extensive. If you qualify, you’ll have the option to get a photo-ID medical card printed on the spot. Located along downtown Oakland’s International Boulevard, this is not the coziest atmosphere in town, but it’s central and convenient. —April Short (2700 International Blvd, Suite 23, Oakland, CA, 94601; (510) 532-2575 or
(510) 866-6217;

Compassionate Health Options


Cost: $90

Clean: 4 stars

Inviting: 4 stars

Establishment age: 8 years

“Ring the alarm!” There’s reggae music playing in the waiting area. While the cold leather furniture doesn’t suggest compassion or health, at least this place is speedy. The recommendation was printed (the card was an extra $15!) in 30 minutes. The doctor hand-drew cannabis charts based on the evaluation. The best part of the visit — even better than it being close to BART — was the conversation with the friendly receptionist. — Otis Taylor Jr. (1322 Webster St., Suite 401;; (510) 465-0420)

420 MD


Cost: $65 (new patients) / $55 (renewals) plus $20 for identification card

Clean: 3 stars

Inviting: 3 stars

Located conveniently close to the MacArthur BART Station, this office offers a simple, straightforward experience in a casual and comfortable, but no-frills environment. Bring a book or a fully-charged phone and lots of patience, because even with an appointment, you can plan to spend some time in the waiting room to see the doctor after filling out a few pages of paperwork. Beware of parking — there’s often little street parking available and you may get a ticket if you park across the street in another business’ lot, so plan accordingly. — K. Astre (2633 Telegraph Ave, Suite 109, Oakland, CA 94612;; (510) 832-5000)

Naturally Healing MD


Cost: $99 for 1st-time patients (renewals $75)

Clean: 5 stars

Inviting: 5 stars

Establishment age: 17 years

For Dr. Laurie Vollen, the effectiveness of cannabis is all about the dose. At her practice on Albany’s pedestrian-oriented Solano Avenue, Vollen recommends that patients start small and incrementally increase their intake to achieve relief. To encourage micro-dosing Vollen provides patients with a 10mg “baby spoon” as an effective starting point and encourages a diary of consumption habits. When selecting cannabis, Vollen recommends patients set aside cannabis varietal names like “indica” or “sativa” and place the focus on terpene profiles instead. Terpenes are the aromatic and flavor molecules in cannabis, which can alter their effects. — Ellen Holland (1201 Solano Ave. #203;; (510) 550-7500)

Norcal Healthcare


Cost: $125 for first-time patients

Clean: 3 stars

Inviting: 3 stars

Establishment age: 10+ years

Norcal Healthcare is located in arguably the most nondescript, undecorated office in all of downtown Oakland. But we knew we were in the right place because “Alice in Wonderland” played on the big-screen TV in the waiting area. There was a longish wait for our 2 p.m. drop-in appointment; the no-nonsense receptionist who answered the phone recommended arriving early. Once we started, the doctor couldn’t have been more attentive, answering very basic questions in an unrushed, straightforward manner, and offering useful advice. That said, the $125 price ($5 more for a wallet-size card) for a first-timer seemed very high – even for an office a couple of blocks from Oakland dispensaries. — Peter Hartlaub (449 15th St., Suite 104, Oakland;; (510) 839-0723)


Be Legally Green

San Carlos

Cost: $80 / $60 for renewal

Clean: 4 stars

Inviting: 3 stars

Establishment age: 6 years (2009)

In an out-of-the-way location in a light industrial complex near Highway 101, Be Legally Green provides a no-frills, functional yet friendly setting in which to consult with a physician. Making an appointment online ensures a speedy visit, although patient traffic is often light on weekdays. Ample parking available. Cash only; no credit, debit cards or checks accepted. Best to bring documentation about medical conditions that necessitate a cannabis recommendation. —Carolyne Zinko (887 Industrial Road, Unit I, San Carlos,; (650) 669-40621)

Know a quality cannabis physician we missed? Had a bad experience you want to share? Email David Downs, Chronicle cannabis editor at

Cannabis Editor |? | San Francisco Chronicle. Award-winning journalist. Best-selling author.