How Hard Is It to Get a Medical Card?
There are an estimated 4 million+ medical marijuana patients nationwide. Could you be the next to sign up? We’re often asked, “Is it hard to get a medical card?” The simple answer is: It’s easy if you qualify; it’s hard if you don’t. Your ability to get certified will depend on where you live and what condition you suffer from, among other factors.
What You’ll Need for a Medical Marijuana Card
If you want to apply for a medical marijuana card in your state, you’ll typically need:
- A qualifying medical condition (this varies from state to state)
- A valid state ID
- Proof of residency
- Relevant medical records
- A physician’s certification
- Money for the registration fee (usually from $50 to $200, valid for one year)
The most difficult thing to acquire is the physician’s certification. A licensed doctor must provide a written confirmation that you suffer from a qualifying condition and would benefit from medical marijuana. Without that, registration is impossible.
Factors That May Prevent You From Getting a Medical Card
You may find it hard to get a medical marijuana certification in your state if:
- You don’t have a qualifying condition. States will only issue medical marijuana to patients with an established need.
- You’re a member of the U.S. Military or National Guard. Arkansas, for example, bars military personnel from using marijuana, medicinal or otherwise.
- A medical condition that may be exacerbated by the use of marijuana. For example, if you’re on certain blood thinners, the use of marijuana may interact negatively with your medication and lead to bleeding or hemorrhaging.
- Gun ownership. It’s federally illegal for gun owners to use marijuana and for marijuana users to buy guns.
- A felony record. States like Iowa and Illinois forbid anyone with a felony record to access marijuana. Many other states prohibit felons from registering as marijuana caregivers.
Common Qualifying Conditions for Medical Marijuana
Common qualifying conditions for medical marijuana include:
|ALS||Alzheimer’s disease||Autoimmune disorders|
|Cancer||Cachexia/wasting syndrome||Chronic or intractable pain|
|Huntington’s disease||Migraines||Multiple sclerosis|
Every state maintains its own list of qualifying conditions, and what qualifies in one state may not be accepted in a neighboring state.
Some states are more lenient. For instance:
- New Jersey recognizes commonly neglected conditions like anxiety
- Places like Washington DC and Massachusetts allow physicians to recommend treatment for conditions not on the official state list
- Maine has eliminated its list of qualifying conditions altogether, leaving approval entirely at the physician’s discretion. Oklahoma is similarly lenient.
Other states aren’t so easy on prospective patients.
- Iowa, for example, is regarded as one of the nation’s most restrictive states. There are few qualifying conditions, and only severely ill patients are generally accepted. Even cancer patients must have severe pain, severe nausea, or wasting syndrome in order to qualify.
- Georgia is another state with an extremely restrictive program. Qualifying patients must have a severe or life-threatening disorder and can only receive low-THC cannabis oil.
- Mississippi and Texas are among the other states with especially restrictive requirements, though the Texas program is slowly becoming more patient-friendly.
How to Obtain a Medical Marijuana Card
To obtain a medical marijuana card, you’ll usually need to acquire your physician’s recommendation first. There are some notable exceptions to this rule; for instance, in Maryland, you must first register as a patient and then obtain your physician’s recommendation.
When you meet with the physician, you’ll need to provide any relevant medical records that confirm your medical diagnosis. You’ll also need to provide your state ID and any other required documents. Many states—like Arkansas, Missouri, and Ohio—are now allowing you to get your medical marijuana card online, so you can speak with the physician from home via teleconference.
When you have your physician’s recommendation, the next step is to register with your state’s Department of Health, Cannabis Office, or other department in charge of medical marijuana oversight. You’ll need to pay the registration fee, fill out an application, provide your physician’s certification, and print your card.
Cards are usually valid for one year, after which they need to be renewed. The physician’s recommendation must also be renewed annually.
Once you have your medical marijuana card, you can purchase from any licensed medical marijuana dispensary in your state. You’ll just need to keep your card with you whenever you’re purchasing, using, or transporting your medicine.
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What to Do if You Don’t Qualify for Medical Marijuana in Your State
If a physician determines that you’re ineligible for medical marijuana but you believe you have a legitimate need, consider getting a second opinion. A different physician may recognize your need.
In some states, you can petition the health department to make an exception for you or to add your condition to the state’s list of qualifying conditions. If you can make a strong case for why you would benefit from medical marijuana, you may be able to get certified.
Finally, if your main condition doesn’t qualify you for medical marijuana, you may have an underlying condition that does qualify. It’s important to communicate this to your certifying physician. For example, if you’re seeking medical marijuana for insomnia, most states will deny you. But if your insomnia is caused by chronic pain, you may be eligible. Most medical marijuana states recognize chronic or intractable pain as a qualifying condition.
If you want to know how hard it is to get a medical card, the first thing to do is schedule an appointment with a physician and learn what your options are. Depending on your condition, it may be easier than you think.