New Users Guide
Cannabis is legal to purchase by adults 21 and over in California- which means that all you need is your picture ID to buy cannabis at a recreational dispensary, even if you're not a California citizen. However, most locales are currently not ready to sell recreational cannabis- and won't be for many months. For Californians who are interested in purchasing medical cannabis, but don't know where to start- this guide is for you.
Talking to your Doctor
Consulting with your primary care physician about cannabis is a great place to start when deciding if cannabis is right for you. Doctors are used to patients providing input and ideas about their treatment, including alternative medicines like cannabis. There are no legal repercussions about discussing medical cannabis with your physician, so don’t be afraid to bring this treatment up if you think it is a viable option. Feel free to bring documentation from credible sources like scientific studies or articles from major news publications. Because many doctors have limited experience with medical cannabis, many physicians may be hesitant to recommend it for that reason. Fortunately, they are not your only option for obtaining a medical card to legally purchase cannabis.
Condition-based Booklets and other research can be found at: AmericansForSafeAccess.org/patientresources
Getting a Medical Marijuana Recommendation
Obtaining a medical marijuana recommendation (MMR) for cannabis is a very streamlined process in California. Cannabis clinics with on-site doctors are common in all major cities. They can be found by doing a search for “cannabis clinic” on sites like Google, Yelp, Weedmaps and Leafly. You can call ahead to make an appointment, but most clinics also accept walk-ins.
The most important items to bring to your appointment are your California state-issued ID card or Driver’s License and any relevant medical records (though many clinics do not require the latter).
The state of California also issues their own medical marijuana recommendations, called MMICs, through its Medical Marijuana Identification Card Program. You do not need an MMIC to purchase medical cannabis from a dispensary. However, under Proposition 64, patients who present a valid MMIC card do not have to pay the sales and use tax when making retail purchases of medical cannabis, whether flowers, concentrates, edibles or topical. Also note that an MMIC can only be obtained by those who already have an MMR.
AIDS, anorexia, anxiety, arthritis, cachexia, cancer, chronic pain, glaucoma, insomnia, migraines, seizures, severe nausea, and many other serious chronic or persistent medical symptoms will make you eligible for a MMR card.
What to Expect at a Cannabis Recommendation Clinic
Expect to wait anywhere between 15 minutes and 1 hour to see the doctor, but only spend 5 to 10 minutes speaking with them. Because of the specialized focus of the clinics and the high turnover rate of patients, these doctors are not typically a valid resource for in-depth questions about which strains, methods, or brands you should look at for your condition. For more direction on what kind of medicine to target, check out our ‘Choosing Your Medicine’ section.
Can't Go in Person?
If you don’t have the time, ability or transportation available to reach a cannabis clinic, you can obtain a recommendation from websites like HelloMD and EazeMD, who will do your consultation online and provide your card as a downloaded file. Whether purchasing your card online or in a clinic, expect to spend anywhere between $30 and $50.
Finding a Dispensary
California is home to hundreds of dispensaries, but not all of them are legal to purchase in the medical or recreational market. Popular search sites can help you locate your nearest dispensaries, but ultimately it is up to you to ask for a dispensary's license number and determine if they are in legal operation.
When choosing a legal dispensary, decide what is most important to you - a variety of products to choose from, or a smaller selection of higher quality products? You can view menus and pricing on sites like like Leafly and Weedmaps, which can be helpful if you’re targeting a certain strain or brand. While all dispensaries carry sativa, indica and hybrid cannabis flower and concentrates, only certain shops will have tinctures or sugar-free edibles, for example. Visiting multiple dispensaries will give you a window into the variety of its products, as well as the knowledge of its staff.
Delivery services also abound in many areas in California. Since consumers don’t have the same ability to inspect the products prior to purchase, those are recommended for more experienced cannabis users who have a better understanding of their needs.