We require users to be 21 years old or over, please confirm your age.

How to get a medical marijuana licence

Originally posted on 9th October 2017, Updated on 25th January

Having a medical licence enables the holder to buy medical marijuana from dispensaries (both real world and online) and/or grow their own medicinal cannabis.  Cards are issued at state level and hence only valid in that state.  The basic principles behind the application process are much the same, but the specifics will vary from location to location.

What do you need to get a medical licence for marijuana?

ID and proof of residence

As previously mentioned, medical licences are issued by states for the use of (some of) their residents, therefore, you will need to be able to demonstrate proof of residence in order to be eligible for one.  A valid driver's’ licence will usually serve as both ID and proof of residence, but if you don’t have one, there are likely to be other documents you can use.  You’ll need to check the rules in your state at the time of your application.

Eligibility criteria

This is where life can get interesting.  In broad terms, states issue medical licences to people with conditions which might feasibly benefit from the use of medical marijuana. This can include cancer patients, as shown in this study, or arthritis, as shown in this study. In other words, if you have glaucoma you are pretty much guaranteed to be eligible but if you have a simple broken leg, then you’ll probably be pushing your luck, unless you can demonstrate that your broken leg causes you severe pain.  Some states issue cards mainly on the basis of diagnosed conditions, but some will also issue cards to people who fall outside the official criteria provided that their suffering has been verified by a physician.

Physician’s recommendation

The rules around medical licences are an example of how states can shimmy adroitly around federal law.  Marijuana is illegal at federal level so doctors cannot prescribe medical marijuana.  They can, however, attest to their opinion that marijuana would be beneficial for an individual’s medical condition, on which basis states can provide a medical licence allowing the holder to obtain their own medicinal cannabis on a legal basis.

There will be a fee to pay

Take it as read that you will need to pay a fee, however there may be exemptions available to those experiencing financial hardship.

How many cannabis plants can I grow with a medical marijuana licence?


Even though California is often associated with a liberal approach to life and a relaxed attitude to marijuana in general and medical marijuana in particular, the official rules on grower are actually fairly strict.  They’re just widely ignored.  Legally however, eligible residents can obtain medical licenses and can grow their supply without any upper limit.  Common sense does, however, suggest, that medical growers should voluntarily restrict themselves to what they actually need, particularly since parts of California are very crowded and the smell from many strains of marijuana can get strong enough to reach the point where it can annoy the neighbours.


As recreational marijuana is legal in Colorado, medical licenses are unnecessary.  Residents are free to grow their own medical marijuana, but there is a limit of 6 plants per person and 12 per residence.  Outdoor growers need to ensure that their plants are safely enclosed for example being behind a locked barrier.  Medical cannabis growers are permitted to make gifts of their harvest, for example, if someone wants to try a strain before deciding whether or not they want to part with their money for it in a dispensary, but sales of marijuana are only permitted with a licence.


Similarly to Colorado, recreational marijuana is legal in Massachusetts but the rules are slightly different.  Anybody can grow up to 12 plants, of which up to 6 can be in flower at any one time.  You must grow at your primary residence and only at your primary residence and you must keep your plants secured and out of sight.  Your harvest is for your own use only, but you can gift (not sell) up to an an ounce of it per person.  You must store the marijuana you grow in your own home.

Washington (state)

In Washington you need to have either a doctor’s recommendation or a medical grower’s licence in order to grow medical marijuana legally.  If you do, you can grow up to 60 days’ supply which in practical terms translates as up to 15 plants producing up to 24 ounces (680g) of marijuana.  Again, this is for personal use only.


In theory Oregon has some of the most complicated marijuana rules around.  In practice the basic ground rules are as follows.  Keep marijuana well away from schools, as in at least 1000 feet (305 metres).  This is one of the few laws which could result in jail time if you break it.  Otherwise for practical purposes, you can possess up to 8 ounces in private and have up to one ounce on you in public.  As yet, growing medical marijuana is still officially illegal, but in practical terms Oregon currently seems to work on a “don’t sell, don’t smell, don’t tell” basis.

At current time, states tend to issue medical licences for specific periods, typically a year, hence you will need to remember to renew your card and you would also be wise to leave plenty of time in which to do this since state administrators tend to have heavy workloads, meaning that it can take time for requests, even renewals, to be processed.  Also rules and requirements do change over time and this is often good since the trend with marijuana legalization seems to be one of legislators allowing it tentatively and with restrictions, discovering that it’s a useful source of revenue and becoming more relaxed about marijuana in general.  For example both Colorado and Massachusetts started off only allowing medical marijuana but now allow recreational marijuana as well.  You do, however, need to keep on top of current laws in your state (and of course if you change states).  Finally, even when it is legal for you to grow, remember to do so with consideration.  It would be rather ironic if you took advantage of legal, medical cannabis only to find yourself facing a civil suit from a neighbour annoyed with the smell of your plants!

MSNL Team / 25th January 2019

View ‘Author Name’ Articles

2 thoughts on “How to get a medical marijuana licence”

  • connie welch

    how to get card for medical purposes

  • Chauch

    I live in West Virginia and as of yet marijuana is still illegal here. Hoping we can get caught up with present-day America very soon. I am interested in becoming a medical cannabis grower. I'm sure it'll become legalized soon and would like to contribute my skills to a much greater cause.

Leave a Comment

Sorry, you must be logged in to post a comment.