Frequently Asked Questions
2. How can I find a lawyer?
See our legal referral page.
3. Where can I find a physician to recommend medical marijuana?
Any California licensed physician can recommend or approve your use of medical marijuana. Also see our index of Medicinal Cannabis Practitioners, indexed by county.
4. Where can I find a cannabis cooperative, collective, dispensary or delivery service?
See our list of Cannabis Patients' Cooperatives and Support Groups and Cannabis Delivery Services. Cal NORML makes no representation as to the quality, service, reliability, or compassion of any of the coops, dispensaries, delivery services or patients' groups listed.
5. How much medical marijuana can I grow for my personal use?
See Local Medical Marijuana Cultivation & Possession Guidelines
6. Can I legally grow medical marijuana to sell?
Under state law, the California Compassionate Use Act of 1996 (Prop. 215) patients and their "primary caregivers" are protected from criminal prosecution under state law for personal possession and cultivation of marijuana, but NOT for distribution or sale to others. State law was expanded in 2004 by Senate Bill 420 (Health & Safety Code 11362.7-8). Among other things, SB 420 authorized patient "cooperatives" or "collectives" to grow, distribute and/or sell medical marijuana on a non-profit basis to their members. It also allowed duly designated primary caregivers who consistently attend to patients' needs and collective members to charge for their labor and services in providing marijuana. A new law, MCRSA, will replace SB 420 once its license applications are issued in 2018. One that happens, those who cultivate for others will require local and state licenses.
7. How can I grow medical marijuana collectively with or for other patients, or open a patient cooperative or delivery service?
See our provider guidelines.
8. Is it OK to sell medical marijuana on Craigslist?
CalNORML strongly cautions against this. We have had many reports of undercover police officers posing as patients in order to bust those who seek to sell marijuana on Craigslist.
9. Do I need an I.D. card?
They are voluntary, but may protect you better from arrest. Read more.
10. Can employers and others access my medical marijuana recommendation or ID card information?
No. The state ID card system has safeguards to protect patient privacy. Patient names and addresses are not kept in the state's data base: the only information retained is a personal photo and ID number. The privacy of medical records is protected by federal HIPAA laws. However, if you're drug tested, a medical marijuana recommendation won't protect you (see FAQ #11 below). Read more on privacy.
11. I get drug tested at my job. Can I use medical marijuana?
Not necessarily. The California Supreme Court ruled that employers can discriminate against medical marijuana users. The legislature passed a bill to change that in 2008, but Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoed it. In 2011 and 2012, support could not be found in the California Senate for medical marijuana users' employment rights. Read more.
12. Can I lose my professional license because I use medical marijuana in California?
No. See: California Health and Safety Code 11362.8.
No professional licensing board may impose a civil penalty or take other disciplinary action against a licensee based solely on the fact that the licensee has performed acts that are necessary or appropriate to carry out the licensee's role as a designated primary caregiver to a person who is a qualified patient or who possesses a lawful identification card issued pursuant to Section 11362.72.
13. Can I take my medical marijuana on a plane?
Some airports, like Los Angeles and Oakland are respectful of patients' rights, but others like Arcata and Burbank aren't. If you're flying out of California, check for reciprocity with state law (if they have one--see below).
14. I am traveling to another state. Can I use my California medical marijuana card or recommendation there?
Arizona and Montana have reciprocity in their medical marijuana laws. Maine allows out-of-state patients to exercise their rights for 30 days. Rhode Island respects out-of-state recommendations for any "debilitating medical condition." Michigan accepts medical cards from states that also have reciprocity (California's doesn't). Vermont allows recommendations from neighboring states for Vermont residents only.
The Oregon law does not include a reciprocity provision. However, the Oregon Court of Appeals has ruled (and the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program has confirmed) that patients from out of state are permitted to register with the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program to obtain a registry identification card, the same as an Oregon resident, which will protect them from arrest or prosecution while in Oregon. These out of state patients are required to obtain a recommendation for the medical use of marijuana from an Oregon licensed physician. State v. Berringer, 229 P3d 615 (2010).
15. Can I use medical marijuana on federal land in California?
Medical marijuana patients are not protected while on federal park land or forest land in California. CalNORML has received reports of campers and those driving through federal land who are searched, charged with federal possession statutes, and had their medicine confiscated. A California medical recommendation is not a defense in federal court to these charges.
16. I am coming to California. Can I use medical marijuana there?
Only with a California doctor's recommendation. Most require residency. Also, collectives generally require a California ID. Unfortunately, California's laws don't have reciprocity with other states' medical marijuana laws.
17. Is hashish covered under the medical marijuana laws?
Qualified patients can use and make hashish legally under state law. See Attorney General's ruling.
In December 2014, a California appeals court ruled that concentrated cannabis qualifies as medical marijuana under the Compassionate Use Act. This doesn't really mark a change in policy; but since some courts and DAs have been reluctant to respect the AG's opinion, it's good to have an appellate court rule this way.
However, the Bergen Decision (2008) determined that using butane to make hash oil is not covered by the medical use statutes. California Health and Safety Code Section 11379.6(a) makes it unlawful to engage in the chemical extraction of a substance as part of the process of manufacturing a controlled substance. The charge carries a prison sentence of 3-7 years and a fine of up to $50,000. Several fires have been reported due to BHO extraction. It is unsafe, and illegal. Butane hash-making equipment and chemicals seem to be a red flag for authorities when it comes to child endangerment charges and possible removal of children from the home.
18. Can I use medical marijuana while on probation or parole?
Yes, unless the judge specifies that you cannot under the terms of your probation, which you may appeal. You can request that the judge affirm your use of medical marijuana or modify the terms of your probation to allow medical marijuana use. See Section 11362.795 of SB420
People v. Tilehkooh established that it is state, not federal law that governs this question.
19. Can I grow or use medical marijuana with children in the house?
There is nothing in state law against this. However it's advised to keep your medical marijuana away from children. Make sure that you don't leave edibles around where kids can get them, and keep gardens away from where they play. Butane hash-making equipment and chemicals seem to be a red flag for authorities when it comes to children.
In rare cases Child Protective Services has become involved, mostly in cases with large plant numbers, evidence of sales, neglect, or messy divorce proceedings. In such cases, CPS tends not to be understanding about medical marijuana and can always allege child endangerment.
20. Can I own or buy a gun with a medical marijuana card?
The federal Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms sent letters to gun dealers in 2011 warning them they could not sell to known medical marijuana users. When buying a gun, question 11e on the ATF form asks, "Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana?"
Answering yes makes you ineligible to purchase; falsely answering no is in principle punishable as perjury. This should not affect current gun owners.
On August 31, 2016 a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a challenge to this policy from a medical marijuana patient in Wilson v. Lynch. The opinion states: "Wilson could have amassed legal firearms before acquiring a registry card, and [federal statutes] and the Open Letter would not impede her right to keep her firearms or to use them to protect herself and her home. In addition, Wilson could acquire firearms and exercise her right to self-defense at any time by surrendering her registry card, thereby demonstrating to a firearms dealer that there is no reasonable cause to believe she is an unlawful drug user.”
Although California law does not prohibit medical marijuana users from having guns, using a gun in connection with an offense such as cultivation or possession with sale can result in additional criminal charges. Users are advised to keep their guns in a location that is separate from their marijuana.
21. Can I lose my housing if I use or grow medical marijuana?
The US Dept of Housing and Urban Development has stated that local housing authorities can determine their own policies regarding medical marijuana use in HUD housing. We suggest contacting a local NORML attorney about your housing rights.
Landlords may make conditions on tenancy that exclude medical marijuana cultivation or use. Oftentimes, they need to be educated about the law; you can show them our Patient's Rights to Medical Marijuana pamphlet and explain that you are legal under state law. Vaporizing or using edibles can be a solution to issues of smells that annoy neighbors.
22. How can I find a California NORML chapter, or start one?
See a list of California chapters.
Contact Ellen Komp, CaNORML deputy director, for California chapter support.