By: Shane Flagstad
Background on Medical Marijuana Legality in California
Now that marijuana is recreationally legal in California as of midnight November 9th, 2016, medical patients are left wondering how they can secure their access to affordable medical marijuana. Before the prop 64 initiative legalized recreational use, the California medical marijuana community was operating under prop 215, which is the previous medical marijuana initiative passed in November 1996. Although prop 64 does not alter the protections provided under prop 215, it does add a new set of rules and regulations that also apply to medical patients. For example, prop 64 will restrict everyone, including medical patients, from consuming marijuana in any public place, leaving only specifically licensed premises and private properties open to consumption. The prop 64 initiative applies a sales tax of 7.5+% to all marijuana goods sold. On Jan 1, 2018, the initiative applies more taxes, a 15% excise tax to all marijuana goods sold and a $9.25/ounce cultivation tax to all marijuana produced for distribution. The initiative states that even medical patients are subject to the excise and cultivation tax. However, one thing a medical marijuana patient can do to reduce the cost of their medicine is to obtain a state-authorized Medical Marijuana Identification Card (MMIC) to provide exemption from the 7.5+% sales tax that went into effect when prop 64 passed.
Where and How do I Obtain a Medical Marijuana Identification Card?
The only way to be exempt from the sales tax imposed on marijuana is for medical marijuana patients to obtain a medical marijuana identification card. This exemption would allow patients to purchase medicine tax-free until the excise and cultivation taxes go into effect. The California state Medical Marijuana ID program is voluntary, as medical dispensaries currently only require a physician’s written recommendation, and the cards provide sales tax exemption status and legal protection. Patients can apply for their state-authorized medical marijuana ID card from their county’s board of health. All of California’s counties, except Sutter and Colusa, have implemented medical marijuana ID card programs. To ease patient concern, the ID card system database only retains a photo of the patient with an ID number, omitting the patient’s name and address to protect patient privacy. The identification card is valid for one year and the fee is $100, $50 for Medi-Cal patients, or free for indigent patients.
Qualifying for the Medical Marijuana Identification Card and what is required
To qualify for a state-authorized medical marijuana ID card, a California patient needs to be diagnosed with a qualifying medical condition, including any chronic illness or persistent medical condition that either limits ability to one or more major life activities or a condition that may cause harm if not alleviated. There are specific documents and proof that a patient would need to provide to obtain a medical marijuana ID card. Patients need a completed medical marijuana identification card application or renewal form, as the ID is only valid for one year. A valid government-issued ID, such as a motor vehicle driver’s license, DMV issued ID card, Passport, or military ID. Valid proof of residency within San Diego County, which includes motor vehicle registration, current rent/mortgage receipt, or a utility bill. They also require written documentation, or the CDPH 9044 form, from your physician recommending the use of medical marijuana, including the physician’s name, contact information and California medical license number. The non-refundable fee must be in the form of cash, cashier’s check, or money order–no personal checks are accepted. In most counties, applicants must apply in person and will be asked to have their photo taken for the card and to pay the fee. State regulations require the County to issue a card to valid applicants within 30 days of submitting the application, generally the cards are issued within 10 business days. Appeals are allowed and handled by the state. However, the application can be denied and the patient could be restricted from reapplying for six months if they submit an incomplete application or fail to provide all the information needed. It is crucial that the applicant check with the county in which they are applying to provide all the required information properly.
Although the medical marijuana identification card is voluntary, it is recommended that patients obtain one to be better protected legally and to continue affordable access to their medicine. This ID card grants medical patients the ability to carry and grow more marijuana than is allowed for recreational users. More importantly, obtaining this ID card allows patients to purchase their medicine without paying sales tax, which means tax-free medicine until the excise and cultivation taxes become effective in Jan, 2018. After Jan, 2018, patients with valid state issued medical marijuana ID cards would still be exempt from the sales tax on their medicine and can continue to grow and carry whatever amount is necessary for their condition. Qualifying patients can obtain a medical marijuana identification card from the California county in which the patient resides to take advantage of these benefits.
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