Physician Recommendation for Medical Marijuana
Still a Necessity for Many
Now that Proposition 64, commonly called marijuana legalization, has passed in California, people often wonder if they still need to get a recommendation from a physician to possess and consume medical marijuana. The answer is that in many cases, people who use medical cannabis still need and benefit from a recommendation from a licensed physician.
The first reason is clear: if people are using cannabis, they should be using it under the care and observation of a doctor to monitor its effects on their health and possible interactions with other medications and treatments. The second reason is that while Proposition 64 has changed California law on election night, the regulated commercial market and the ability to purchase adult-use cannabis is still at least one year away.
Proposition 64 allows adults over age 21 to possess, transport and give away no more than one ounce of marijuana plant material or 8 grams of concentrated cannabis. It allows adults to cultivate up to six plants per residence. People can keep the marijuana produced by those plants or give it away (meaning for free) to others who are over age 21. But, until the state and local governments develop regulations and issue licenses for adult-use cannabis businesses, no one can legally sell adult-use cannabis in California. For this reason, if people use medical cannabis but do not want to cultivate for themselves, need medicine from more than six plants, want to join a collective, or want to receive medicine from a licensed dispensary, they need to have a recommendation from a licensed physician.
Another common question is whether qualified patients must have the medical marijuana identification card (MMIC) issued by the Department of Public Health. The answer is no; qualified patients are not legally required to have an MMIC—but Proposition 64 has brought a new reason for people to consider getting one. Qualified patients who have an MMIC do not have to pay California state sales tax anymore on purchases of medical cannabis. By contrast, qualified patients who have a recommendation only must still pay sales tax. But, the state tax holiday for MMIC holders is short. To begin, qualified patients still must pay local taxes imposed on the sale of medical cannabis, if such taxes are in effect in their jurisdiction. And, on January 1, 2018, the State of California will impose a state excise tax of 15 percent on sales of adult-use and medical cannabis for everyone. Adult-use consumers and qualified patients who do not have an MMIC will have to also pay state sales tax.
Thus, in addition to the considerable benefits of using medical cannabis while under the supervision of a licensed physician, many qualified patients still need to have a recommendation to get the full benefits of California’s medical marijuana laws.
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