California Medical Marijuana Program ID Card

Q: What is the Best Protection
A: Under California law, all patients must possess a physician’s recommendation for medical marijuana. Under the California Medical Marijuana Plan (MMP), however, a patient may also apply to their local county Department of Public Health for a medical marijuana identification card. Your local county division of the Department of Public Health can issue this identification card to a patient or primary caregiver in possession of a valid physician’s recommendation after processing an official application, and the enclosure of a fee. Note that it is not necessary for a patient or caregiver in California to possess this identification card to use or possess medical marijuana; only a valid physician’s recommendation is necessary for personal use.

So why go through the trouble to apply for the identification card and pay a fee for something you technically don’t need? Simple: the identification card grants the holder immunity from arrest for transporting, possessing or cultivating medical marijuana, as long as the holder is otherwise in compliance with the law. This immunity is codified in California Health and Safety Code §11362.71(e), which states, in totality:

No person or designated primary caregiver in possession of a valid identification card shall be subject to arrest for possession, transportation, delivery, or cultivation of medical marijuana in an amount established pursuant to this article, unless there is reasonable cause to believe that the information contained in the card is false or falsified, the card has been obtained by means of fraud, or the person is otherwise in violation of the provisions of this article.

This is the most powerful protection available to patients and primary caregivers under California law. If you are approached by California law enforcement and questioned about the use, cultivation or transportation of medical marijuana, you can still be arrested even if you present a valid physician’s recommendation. For example, an officer could believe your recommendation is fraudulent or forged, in which case you may be held to answer unnecessary criminal charges simply to force you to prove your paperwork is valid. However, since the identification card grants the patient immunity from arrest, once law enforcement personnel verifies the validity of your card, they should release you immediately and return whatever medical marijuana they have seized, if any. This procedure is endorsed by the California Attorney General in the Guidelines for the Security and Non-Diversion of Marijuana Grown for Medical Use, stating:

If the card is valid and not being used fraudulently, there are no other indicia of illegal activity (weapons, illicit drugs, or excessive amounts of cash), and the person is within the state or local possession guidelines, the individual should be released and the marijuana should not be seized.

Since this form of protection is provided expressly by the California legislature, and endorsed by the California Attorney General, it is an extremely valuable item to have in your wallet if you are a serious patient or caregiver, certainly worth the trouble of the application and the fee. County of Butte v. Superior Court (Williams) (2009) 175 Cal.App.4th 729, 738. (“Immunity from arrest is exceptional and, when granted, ordinarily is granted expressly”).

Therefore, the card represents an official document from the State of California recognizing the patient’s right to use medical marijuana. If the card carrier is a primary caregiver, the card shows that the caregiver has a right to possess and transport medical marijuana on behalf of the patient or patients they care for. The identification card itself somewhat resembles a driver’s license: it contains the holder’s photograph, the official seal of the State of California, a date of expiration, and an identification number. The back side of the card contains a copy of the actual physician’s recommendation to the patient upon which the identification card is based. The object of the identification number is to provide law enforcement with a method of immediately verifying the validity of the identification card. Simply by accessing the web site,, and entering in the patient’s identification number, law enforcement may determine if the patient’s card is valid in less than thirty seconds.

Beck Law P.C. recommends any patient or primary caregiver seeking to take the fullest advantage of their rights to medical marijuana under California state law apply for the medical marijuana identification card. To fully understand the applications of the identification card and other aspects of California’s medical marijuana laws, contact a knowledgeable and professional attorney, well-versed in such matters.Beck Law P.C. is located in Santa Rosa and offers an entire scope of Medical Marijuana related services to clients in Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Cotati, Rohnert Park, Sebastopol, Healdsburg, Sonoma, Kenwood, Glen Ellen, Windsor, Bodega Bay, Ukiah, Willits, Clearlake, Lakeport, Kelseyville and throughout Sonoma County, Mendocino County and Lake County.

Beck Law P.C. can furnish the experience and knowledge to help guide you through the complexities of California Medical Marijuana law.
Making an appointment to meet with us is an investment in exploring what options may or may not apply to your particular situation. Your visit to the Beck Law Offices is confidential, as is the information discussed. You can contact our office at 707-576-7175 or contact us online.


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