Where Can I Get a Medicinal Marijuana Card?

State Laws on Medical Cannabis

Marijuana (spelled "marihuana" in Canada) is the common term for plants in the Cannabis genus. The plants are indigenous to Central and South Asia and grow best in a hot climate with plenty of sunlight. Marijuana (often simply called "cannabis") has been used as a pain reliever and recreational drug since antiquity, when humans discovered that smoking the dried weed produced a high. Cannabis sativa is the most common variety of marijuana grown around the world today. Distribution and use of marijuana is regulated in most countries, but more and more jurisdictions are relaxing their laws to allow cannabis for medicinal use.

In the US and Canada, many patients who suffer from debilitating illnesses can use marijuana medicinally without running afoul of drug laws. In some areas, patients are issued a special Medicinal Marijuana card that allows them to buy cannabis from authorized distrubutors and growers. In other areas, medicinal marijuana use is not explicitly permitted, but patients may claim a medical exemption if they are cited for pot use. Laws vary greatly by location, so patients must research their local and state regulations carefully.

Medicinal Marihuana Use in Canada

Health Canada distrubutes dried marihuana and marihuana seeds to authorized patients and designated growers. If a patient meets the requirements for using marihuana medicinally, he can either buy it ready-to-smoke from Health Canada, buy seeds and grow the plants himself, or choose a designated person to grow the plant from purchased seeds. Designated growers cannot grow marihuana for more than one patient.

Patients who are eligible to use medical cannabis in Canada are classified as either Category 1 or Category 2 depending on what their particular medical conditions are. Regardless of category, a patient must have approval from his doctor. The doctor will also specify the recommended daily dosage. Health Canada has deemed that daily doses between one and 3 grams are within normal range. The appliction forms are on the Health Canada website.

Medicinal Marijuana Use in the US

Distribution and use of marijuana is still a federal crime, thus, even though individual states have deemed some uses legal, the federal government still retains the right to prosecute individuals who use or supply medical marijuana. This has led to many controversial convictions of people who grow medicinal marijuana in states where it is legal. Unlike Canada, which controls the supply of medical cannabis, the US federal government and state governments have made no provisions to distribute medical marijuana. Patients must find their own suppliers or contact a state-authorized dispensary.


Patients who need marijuana and caregivers who administer it need to obtain a Registry Identification Card for Medical Use of Marijuana. The application form is available from the Bureau of Vital Statistics. If approved for the medicinal marijuana card, patients and their caregivers can possess up to an ounce of dried marijuana and six plants.


In Novermber 2010, Arizona voters passed a measure legalizing medicinal marijuana.


California has the most complicated medical marijuana laws of any state--the legality of pot for medicinal use varies by county. The California Dept. of Public Health maintains an up-to-date list of county marijuana laws and how to apply for a card in each county.


In Colorado, patients who wish to take marijuana for therapeutic use need to apply for the Medical Marijuana Registry. Patients who qualify can possess up to two ounces of pot and six plants.

District of Columbia

In Washington D.C., patients with a qualifying condition may possess up to four ounces of marijuana if they have a note from a doctor. Patients are not allowed to grow the plants themselves, but they can purchase dried weed from a licensed dispensary. You can read the current text of the law here.


Patients who need medicinal marijuana must apply through the Hawai'i Dept. of Public Safety: Narcotics Enforcement Division. Patients who meet the eligibity requirements are permitted to hold up to one ounce of pot and three mature plants.


Maine does not have an official registry or card system, but a patient can possess "a usable amount of marijuana for medical reasons" so long as he or she has a note from his or her doctor.


In Maryland, if a person is caught with pot, he or she may use a medical defense and avoid fines or jail time. Currently, the law does not protect growers.


The Michigan Medical Marihuana Program (MMMP) allows for patients to ingest, possess, and grow marijuana if they have a qualifying conditions. It also allows for qualifying caregivers to grow and administer the drug. The MMMP is a registration program, and if a person is admitted to the registry, he or she is exempt from criminal laws regarding marijuana. The program does not provide assistance in obtaining marijuana.


In Montana, patients who wish to use marijuana for medicinal purposes must apply with the Quality Assurance Division of the Department of Public Health and Human Services. The Montana Medical Marijuana Program allows patients to possess up to one ounce of usable pot and six plants.


Nevada allows qualifying patients to possess marijuana plants and pot if they have an approved medical condition. More information can be found on on the website of the Nevada Medical Marijuana Program. Currently, the law allows patients and caregivers to possess one ounce of usable pot and seven plants.

New Jersey

New Jersey has laws that permit the therapeutic use of marijuana, however the current rules are under review. Read here for the updates in the law.

New Mexico

The Medical Cannibis Program in New Mexico allows qualifying patients to grow marijuana plants in their homes. The law allows for caregivers to help administer and grow cannabis in a patient's home, but caregivers cannot grow the plants in their own homes.


Oregon allows patients to grow and use medicinal cannabis under the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program. The state registry protects medical marijuana users and caregivers from prosecution under marijuana possession laws.

Rhode Island

The Rhode Island Medical Marijuana Program is a registry system that protects patients and their caregivers from criminal prosecution under the state's cannabis possession laws. In Rhode Island, people with a certain medical conditions can use and grow marijuana plants. The current limits are 2.5 ounces of pot and 12 plants per patient.


In Vermont, patients with debilitating and terminal illnesses can apply to the Vermont Marijuana Registry. A patient or his/her registered caregiver may possess up to two ounces of usable pot and 9 plants.


In Virginia, patients with a note from a doctor may possess small quantities of marijuana for medicinal purposes. The law also protects pharmacists and doctors who supply marijuana to qualified patients. Read here for the text of the current law.


In Washington, a qualified patient or registered care provider may possess up to 24 ounces of pot and 15 marijuana plants so long the patient has a note from a doctor. Washington does not use a registry or card system for medical marijuana; a written recommendation from the patient's doctor is sufficient.

Important Limitations

Patients must note that even if their state allows the use a marijuana for medicinal purposes, there isn't really a formal system that allows a doctor to "write a prescription" for marijuana; the doctor can only sign a form stating that he/she believes the patient qualifies for a medical marijuana exemption. Patients and their caregivers must obtain cannabis on their own. Some jurisdictions have made moves to set up licensed dispensaries, but patients cannot buy it at the pharmacy.

Medical marijuana cards and registry systems may not protect patients who cross state lines. If you are registered in one state, it doesn't necessarily transfer to another. Patients should avoid crossing state lines with any amount of pot, marijuana seeds, or plants.

In many states with medicinal marijuana provisions, the landlord must give approval for the patient-renter to grow cannabis on the premises. Landlords have the right to refuse this. Moreover, landlords may evict patient-renters who grow marijuana, even if the patient has a valid registry card. To avoid tenant/landlord conflicts, patients should always obtain written permission to cultivate marijuana in their unit.

© Had2Know 2010

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