CA Medical Marijuana ID Card Program - FAQ

Question: I already have a card from my physician and another from a dispensary. Why would I want another card?

MPP Answer: The state-issued ID cards provide near-guaranteed protection from arrest by state and local law enforcement officials for limited amounts of marijuana, and other ID cards do not.

According to the California Health and Safety Code, "No person or designated primary caregiver in possession of a valid [state] identification card shall be subject to arrest for possession, transportation, delivery, or cultivation of medical marijuana in an amount established pursuant to this article, unless there is reasonable cause to believe that the information contained in the card is false or falsified, the card has been obtained by means of fraud, or the person is otherwise in violation of the provisions of this article."

Cards offered by physicians, dispensaries, and other private organizations do not offer this level of legal protection.

Question: If I get a card will my name be filed in a database to be accessed by federal law enforcement agents bent on arresting patients for medical marijuana?

MPP Answer: This is understandably one of the most common concerns about the state ID cards. However, fears of federal seizure of the state's records are often over-exaggerated. The California Department of Public Health — the agency charged with maintaining the ID card program — doesn't keep any of the cardholders' personal information. The department only keeps those records required by law: a digital photograph of the cardholder, the expiration date of the ID card, the county where the card was issued, and a unique assigned to the card. These are also the only data that is printed on the cards themselves.

Most individual counties do retain additional records of cardholders, including the ID card application paperwork. These records are sealed to ensure the privacy of the cardholders and could only be obtained by subpoena. It's highly unlikely that federal law enforcement officials would expend limited resources investigating individuals simply because they are in possession of an ID card. On the other hand, encounters with state and local law enforcement where the card may come in handy are exceedingly more common.

Question: If my county implements the state ID card program, are dispensaries more likely to open up shop in my town?

MPP Answer: Not necessarily. While implementing the ID card program is likely to encourage county officials to become more amiable to the idea of state-legal medical marijuana, the card program is in no way related to land-use policies governing dispensaries.

Question: Do I need a card to legally possess or cultivate medical marijuana in California?

MPP Answer: No. The state ID card program is voluntary. The Compassionate Use Act (Proposition 215) ensures that a medical defense is available to patients facing certain marijuana charges so long as a licensed physician recommended medical marijuana to them. This is the case even if the defendant was not in possession of an ID card at the time of his or her arrest. The ID cards just help to avoid such an arrest in the first place.

Question: Where and how can I obtain a card?

MPP Answer: The state ID cards are issued through individual county health departments or their designees. In order to obtain a card, one must show a written medical marijuana recommendation from a licensed California physician, proof of residency in the county in which they are applying, and pay a non-refundable application fee. A list of participating counties and their contact numbers is listed on the state program's website. 

For more information on California's medical marijuana ID cards, visit the program's website.





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