Becoming a Patient in California
Patients and their caregivers are permitted to legally use, have, and grow cannabis for medical purposes. The law also protects not-for-profit collective and cooperative grow operations and allows primary caregivers to be reimbursed for the costs of their services.
To be a legal medical cannabis patient in California, all you need is a valid doctor's recommendation. There is a medical cannabis ID card system run by the state and several privately issued patient ID cards. A state-issued ID card is not required to be a legal patient, but it does look more official to the police.
If you are on probation or parole, it's up to your probation or parole officer whether or not to allow you to use medical cannabis.
The state limits are: six mature or 12 immature cannabis plants plus eight ounces of dried cannabis per patient. Cities and counties can set limits that are higher than this limit, but cannot set lower limits. For a listing of known guidelines for localities across California, see http://www.safeaccessnow.net. Also, the doctor's recommendation can specify that you need an amount of medical cannabis that exceeds the limits.
Eligible conditions include: AIDS, anorexia, arthritis, cachexia, cancer, chronic pain, glaucoma, migraine, persistent muscle spasms, seizures, severe nausea, and any other serious chronic or persistent medical symptom.
You or your caregiver can grow your medical cannabis. Also, California's law allows for cooperative grows and dispensing businesses, as long as they are not a for-profit entity. See CANORML's list of dispensaries. For more on dispensing collectives and cooperatives, including information about how to start one, read these FAQ.
Don't be dangerous (i.e., don't drive under the influence). That is still illegal. Also, don't use cannabis within 1000 feet of a school, rec center, or youth center. Don't smoke on a school bus.
The law does not specifically address the legality of paraphernalia.
Your primary caregiver must be at least 18 years old and should consistently assume responsibility for your housing, health, or safety. They can be the primary caregiver of more than one patient only if the patients live in the same city or county as the primary caregiver.
There are both public and private entities that issue ID cards. It usually takes at least 24 hours for them to verify your doctor's recommendation and produce the card. ID cards are valid for one year, then should be renewed. Contact your local Department of Public Health or one of these private organizations: Oakland Cannabis Buyers Cooperative (Bay Area) - (510) 832-5346 Medicann (Statewide) -866-632-6627. Again, you do not need an ID card to be a legal patient.
Get a written recommendation from your doctor. Here is a sample doctor's recommendation and here is the form used by San Francisco Department of Health Services. It's best to work with your primary care physician, but if they are unwilling or you don't have one, you can find a list of doctors familiar with medical cannabis at http://canorml.org. Under California's law, your doctor cannot be punished simply for having recommended medical cannabis.
Your medical information is confidential and protected under HIPAA. The medical cannabis ID cards do not show your name, address, or other sensitive information, though they do have a photo. Police and government agents can verify the legitimacy of the card.
Jails and other penal institutions do not necessarily have to accommodate your medical use of cannabis.
Employers are not required to accommodate on-the-job consumption of medical cannabis. Patient status outside of work is not protected either. See Ross v RagingWire.
Health insurance providers are not mandated to cover medical cannabis expenses.
Montana, Rhode Island, and Michigan should recognize your medical cannabis card issued by government entities.
For more information
If you have more specific questions, talk to a local attorney. You can also contact the California Department of Public Health: http://www.cdph.ca.gov/programs/MMP
California Department of Public Health
Office of County Health Services
Attention: Medical Marijuana Program Unit
P.O. Box 997377
Sacramento, CA 95899-7377