The Compassionate Use Act was passed in the state of California in 1996 and gives patients the right to use medical marijuana to treat certain mental and physical conditions. It also requires that any patient wishing to do that receive a letter of recommendation for medical marijuana use from a certified physician. In 2003, the state senate passed another bill called SB 420, establishing a registry for medical marijuana users which is administered on a county level. This registry offers picture ID cards for use as proof to law enforcement officials and marijuana dispensaries that an individual has the legal right to possess, grow, transport and use medical marijuana. These identification cards are called 420 Cards.
The first step in becoming a medical marijuana patient is a visit to your primary care doctor. This doctor can be a medical doctor or physical therapist, an acupuncturist, a podiatrist, chiropractor, or another allied health care professional. They are not the final word in the process; they are just the first step. Taking their recommendation to a medical marijuana evaluation center is the next step. It is there that you’ll be evaluated by another doctor and the determination will be made whether or not you qualify as a candidate for medical marijuana treatment.
That approval comes in the form of a letter of recommendation which you can take to any dispensary to purchase marijuana. That letter, according to The Compassionate Use Act, is the only documentation you need to possess or use medical marijuana. The registry that was established by SB 420 is voluntary. You are not obligated to apply for a 420 Card from the county but most patients do. Possession of such a card offers additional protection from law enforcement officials and leads to far fewer questions than just a letter with no photo on it does.
According to SB 420, the medical marijuana users’ registry will be administered by counties and counties are responsible for maintaining it themselves through fees, so there will be a fee to obtain a 420 Card. The cards, like letters of recommendation, are good for a period of one year. In order to renew you must apply back to the medical marijuana evaluation center first and go through the entire process over again each year.