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How To Get A Medical Cannabis Card in The U.S.

Written by Alexandra Hicks
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In this day and age, everyone should have quick and convenient access to medical cannabis, but the starting battle can be knowing where to look.

You may live somewhere with minimal options, or maybe you’re in a place like California where there are so many different choices it can make your head spin. Regardless, if you’re new to the world of medical cannabis, getting legal buds can seem like a monumental task. You probably know that in most states you need a medical cannabis card. Even in recreational states, having a medical recommendation can be beneficial, often in the form of discounts and waived taxes.  

Do you know how to get a medical card though? Obtaining one can be confusing, strange, and maybe even a bit sketchy to someone who is unfamiliar with the process – all of which could be accurate depending on where you go.

But I have good news for you… with a bit of due diligence, you can get a legitimate, reasonably priced, hassle-free, medical cannabis card to use at any dispensary within your state. Today we’ll compare notes on getting an MMJ card in two different states with very contrasting cannabis markets: California and Arkansas.


California Dreamin’

I consider myself lucky to be born and raised in California, a state with extremely progressive cannabis laws and trends. Medical cannabis was legalized here in 1996 and is a well-established industry. As such, residents of the Golden State get to enjoy a combination of ease, convenience, and modern-day technology when obtaining a medical cannabis card.

Basically, it’s all done online. It’s a pretty straightforward process. First you schedule an appointment with the doctor through their website, which will be conducted via phone or Skype. During your appointment, the doctor will ask some information about your medical history and possibly request some documents to be sent in.

medical cannabis card

Sunset on a SoCal Beach

The qualifying conditions for medical cannabis in California are as follows:

  • Cancer
  • Anorexia
  • AIDS
  • Chronic pain
  • Spasticity
  • Cachexia
  • Persistent muscle spasms, including those associated with multiple sclerosis
  • Seizures, including, but not limited to, those associated with epilepsy
  • Severe nausea
  • Glaucoma
  • Arthritis
  • Migraines
  • Any other chronic or persistent medical symptom that substantially limits the ability of the person to conduct one or more major life activities (as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990) or, if not alleviated, may cause serious harm to the patient’s safety or physical or mental health

Once you’re approved, you’ll typically get a digital copy of your medical cannabis recommendation for immediate use, and you will also receive an official, stamped and embossed one in the mail. I personally have mine through GetNugg (also known as nuggMD), but there are other sites people can use such as PrestoDoctor, which actually offers medical cards in 5 different states.

Once you have your recommendation in-hand, you take it to your dispensary of choice along with a valid form of ID, and shop to your heart’s content. It’s so easy and affordable, it seems too good to be true; but in this case it’s actually as simple and painless as it appears. Aside from the flexible appointment process, any company worth their salt will also offer 24/7 phone and online verification, so you never have to worry about being turned away from collectives. And of course, the recommendations are 100% legal and legitimate.

Most California medical cannabis cards are only valid for 1 year, so make sure to plan accordingly and schedule a renewal appointment beforehand.

The Arkansas Way

Let me preface this by mentioning something you probably already know, getting a medical cannabis card in Arkansas is much more time consuming then in California. Residents of Arkansas voted to legalize medical cannabis in 2016, but a program wasn’t implemented until 2018.

medical cannabis card

Ozarks in Central Arkansas

The first step to getting MMJ in Arkansas is scheduling an appointment with a licensed physician. More specifically, the physician in question must be a Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Osteopathy who is licensed to practice in the state and they must have a controlled substance license on file with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).

The doctor will obtain your medical history and conduct a physical examination to determine whether you’re eligible for a medical cannabis card or not. If so, you will get a certification that you will mail into the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH), along with an official application form, and a valid form of ID.

The qualifying conditions for medical cannabis in Arkansas are as follows:

  • Cancer
  • Glaucoma
  • Positive status for human immunodeficiency virus/ acquired immune deficiency syndrome
  • Hepatitis C
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • Tourette’s syndrome
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Severe arthritis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Cachexia or wasting syndrome
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Intractable pain which is pain that has not responded to ordinary medications, treatment or surgical measures for more than six (6) months
  • Severe nausea
  • Seizures including without limitation those characteristic of epilepsy
  • Severe and persistent muscle spasms including without limitation those characteristic of multiple sclerosis
  • and any other medical condition or its treatment approved by the Department of Health

Make sure you don’t procrastinate as the certification is only valid for 30 days. If you miss your window, you’ll have to start over from square with a new doctor appointment.

Upon approval, you will receive your state card in the mail, and it’s valid for one year. In February 2019, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission released a list of 32 licensed dispensaries.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, the differences are striking but many of the qualifying conditions overlap. Most states fall somewhere in between these two methods: simple and done mostly online, or through the state health department.

For the most part, medical cannabis cards are only valid in the patient’s state of residence. There are only a couple of exceptions to this rule: Most Nevada dispensaries accept California medical cards (but not vice versa), and some states allow for a temporary visitor recommendation, but again, you’ll have to plan accordingly.

As regulations continue to evolve, so will the process of obtaining a medical cannabis card.

About the author

Alexandra Hicks

Alexandra is the managing editor at CBD Testers. She has always been interested in alternative and natural remedies, and the versatility of cannabis as a healing plant is something that greatly appeals to her. It's for this reason that she decided to work as a cannabis industry journalist and editor, to help spread accurate information about the benefits of this plant.

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