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How to get a medical card in Pennsylvania

Summary: 

  • Medical marijuana is legalized in Pennsylvania. 
  • A certified medical marijuana cardholder may possess up to a 30-day supply of medical marijuana products in the state of Pennsylvania. 
  • You cannot enter a cannabis dispensary in Pennsylvania without a medical card. 
  • Medical marijuana use is strictly limited to private spaces. 
  • It’s still a federal crime to transport marijuana across state lines. 
  • The registration process can be completed online. 
  • Growing marijuana yourself in Pennsylvania is illegal. 

How to Get a Medical Marijuana Card in Pennsylvania 

Once you have a medical marijuana card, you have access to hundreds of products that can be prescribed for many chronic and sometimes debilitating conditions. You’ve just got to get that card in hand—and we can help. 

Getting a medical marijuana card in Pennsylvania requires a four-step process that sounds simple—and it basically is—but it can be helpful to be aware of some common issues so that you can avoid them. You can do most of it online, and there are many registered physicians throughout the state available to help you become certified. 

Alex Adams, a community outreach specialist for RISE Dispensaries, with 13 locations in Pennsylvania, is happy to talk new patients through the process and offer expert advice for the smoothest journey from potential medical marijuana patient to MMJ cardholder. 

“Sometimes people find the registration process a bit tricky, but we have navigated a lot of these hiccups, and can help potential new patients avoid them.” 

Read on for a step-by-step guide and her best advice. 

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Is Marijuana Legal in Pennsylvania? 

The possession and sale of marijuana to the general public are not legal in Pennsylvania. If you are a certified medical marijuana cardholder in the state of Pennsylvania, you may possess up to a 30-day supply of medical marijuana products. 

Some cities in Pennsylvania have decriminalized the possession of up to 30 grams of marijuana for everyone. That said, possession is technically illegal by anyone not holding a card and, at minimum, will be fined if they are found to be in possession. 

How to Get a Pennsylvania Medical Cannabis Card 

Pennsylvania has a three-step process for patients to obtain a medical cannabis card. 

First: Register as a medical marijuana patient 

The first step is to register as a medical marijuana patient with the Pennsylvania Department of Health. You’ll need a driver’s license or state-issued photo ID, and to be 18 years old.  

Caregivers buying medical cannabis for someone else, including a minor, must register and must complete a criminal background check. For patients themselves, a criminal background—even involving a felony—is not disqualifying. 

Expert tips: 

  • Some people have found the government site difficult to use. For the most expedited process, Adams recommends visiting a medical marijuana certification clinic, where you can apply, see a doctor and pay your fee all in one go. 
  • Make note of your registration log-in information and password. You’ll need it again, to pay your fee, and annually to update your records. 

Second: See a physician to be certified for the medical marijuana program. 

To buy medical cannabis, you need a certification from a doctor that you have an approved condition. You can’t see just any doctor, though; certifying physicians need to register with the health department and undergo special training. The health department has a list of approved practitioners online, and many of them will do virtual appointments. The certifying physician likely will contact your primary care physician for medical records. You’ll need to see a doctor once a year for recertification, but it doesn’t have to be the same doctor from year to year. 

Expert tip: 

  • Most certifying physicians charge a $150 to $200 fee for the certification, which is not covered by insurance. Because visits can be done virtually, Adams encourages people to shop around; you can see any cannabis doctor in Pennsylvania, so look for the best price. 

Third: Pay a $50 state fee 

To keep your medical marijuana card active, you’ll have to pay $50 to the state every year. Those who qualify for government assistance, such as Medicaid, pay a reduced fee of $25. After you’re certified by a doctor, you return to the registration site to pay. Again, this is not covered by insurance. 

Expert tip: 

  • To buy cannabis, you’ll need to have paid your annual fee in the last 365 days. Sometimes, the expiration date printed on the card is past this time period, so even though the card appears to still be active, it won’t work when the pharmacist enters your information, Adams says. It’s helpful to note the date you paid your fee so you can avoid this. 

Finally: Receive your MMJ card in the mail and visit a dispensary. 

Your PA medical card will look just like a driver’s license, and it will even bear the same photo of you. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, cards arrived in the mail three to five days after the fee was paid, but this year, the wait has sometimes been up to three weeks, Adams says. 

Expert tips: 

  • You cannot enter a dispensary in Pennsylvania without an active medical marijuana card in hand. But if you have questions or need help with the process, you always can call your local RISE Dispensary for guidance. 
  • Once you’re a patient, you can consult with a RISE pharmacist at the dispensary about products that might help you and how to consume them. 
  • Unfortunately, you can’t use insurance benefits to buy cannabis products, but RISE does offer a 10 percent discount to patients who qualify for government assistance and other programs. 
  • Once you have your cannabis in hand, make sure you stay on the right side of the law: Don’t use cannabis in public or while operating a motor vehicle, don’t share it with others, and know your employer’s drug-testing policy to make sure you are protected. 

What documents are required? 

The registration process can be completed online. You’ll need a driver’s license or state-issued photo ID, and to be 18 years old. Your approved physician will enter your eligibility from their office. 

How long does it take to get a Pennsylvania medical marijuana card? 

It generally takes between five days and two weeks to receive your card in the mail after completing the registration and being certified by an approved doctor. 

How much does a medical marijuana card cost? 

The card itself comes with an annual $50 fee. People on assistance programs may qualify for a waiver. Programs include WIC, Medicaid, PACE/PACENET, SNAP, and CHIP. 

If you are not already seeing a state-approved medical cannabis doctor, the initial visit could cost up to $200. Your insurance coverage will depend on your policy. 

Your annual renewal includes recertification by your approved doctor.   

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How often do I need to renew my card? 

As of July 30, 2020, you no longer need to renew your online registration with the Department of Health. You still need to renew your certification from a verified physician annually. Don’t worry, you will get an email reminding you about your card’s expiration 60 days prior. 

Qualifying Debilitating Medical Conditions 

If you have one of the following qualifying conditions, you can become certified to use medical marijuana legally in the state of Pennsylvania. 

  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. 
  • Anxiety disorders. 
  • Autism. 
  • Cancer, including remission therapy. 
  • Crohn’s disease. 
  • Damage to the nervous tissue of the central nervous system (brain-spinal cord) with an objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity, and other associated neuropathies. 
  • Dyskinetic and spastic movement disorders. 
  • Epilepsy. 
  • Glaucoma. 
  • HIV / AIDS. 
  • Huntington’s disease. 
  • Inflammatory bowel disease. 
  • Intractable seizures. 
  • Multiple sclerosis. 
  • Neurodegenerative diseases. 
  • Neuropathies. 
  • Opioid use disorder for which conventional therapeutic interventions are contraindicated or ineffective, or for which adjunctive therapy is indicated in combination with primary therapeutic interventions. 
  • Parkinson’s disease. 
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder. 
  • Severe chronic or intractable pain of neuropathic origin or severe chronic or intractable pain. 
  • Sickle cell anemia. 
  • Terminal illness. 
  • Tourette syndrome. 

Where Can I Legally Buy Medical Marijuana in Pennsylvania? 

Pennsylvanian medical marijuana cardholders can purchase cannabis products at any one of the 75 dispensaries located throughout the state. It is important to remember that dispensaries are not able to accept credit cards as a form of payment. Most dispensaries will have an ATM on site. 

Interested in joining the RISE Pennsylvania family? Stop by soon! 

Find the nearest Pennsylvania dispensary in the list below: 

A final pro tip: 

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, whether you’re trying to get your medical marijuana card or figure out what to do now that you have it.  

At RISE, a licensed pharmacist is ready to help you access cannabis as medicine and excited to talk to you about improving your health. 

Caregivers 

Who are caregivers? 

Caregivers are registered individuals who are allowed to pick up medical cannabis from dispensaries on behalf of the patients they’re assigned to. [Source] 

Who can be a caregiver? 

A caregiver must: 

  • Be 21 years of age or older 
  • Register with the Department of Health 
  • Complete a criminal history background check with the commonwealth’s authorized vendor 

Who needs a caregiver? 

Any patient can have a designated caregiver if needed but there are three categories of patients that are required to have a caregiver: 

  • Minors 
  • Home-bound adult patients.
  • Adult patients who benefit from assistance 

These patients do not get an ID card and don’t need to visit a dispensary. Instead, a caregiver registers on their behalf and visits the dispensary for them.  

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Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana FAQ 

Do I need a medical card for CBD purchase? 

CBD-rich products with THC levels less than 0.3% are legal and can be purchased without a medical card. For example, CBD oil derived from hemp can be freely obtained in Pennsylvania. But any CBD product that has a higher THC level and is from the marijuana plant requires a valid MMJ card. 

Can medical patients grow in Pennsylvania? 

Medical marijuana patients in Pennsylvania are currently not allowed to grow plants in their homes. 

Whether you intended to sell or not, the charges for cultivation are a fine of up to $15,000 and 2.5 to 5 years of incarceration. The penalties are steeper if you live near a school.   

Does a medical card show up on a background check? 

Your medical marijuana card-holding status in Pennsylvania will not show up on a background check or on your state-issued ID. Your medical marijuana prescription status is protected under federal HIPAA laws. 

Can you get fired for failing a drug test with a medical card? 

Your employer is not required to accommodate your cannabis use in the state of Pennsylvania. If an employer conducts a random drug test, you may consider using marijuana products with no THC. Even if you use marijuana for medicinal purposes your employer can fire you if the test shows that there is THC in your system. 

It is ultimately up to you whether you disclose your use to your employer or not. Use your better judgment. While they cannot access the information that you are a registered patient once you tell them, they can legally make decisions regarding that information. 

How much marijuana can I purchase at one time with my Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana card? 

You can purchase up to a 30-day supply of medical cannabis products. Technically speaking, a pharmacist at the dispensary will determine what that quantity is for your needs. So, it is up to the dispensary how much a 30-day supply is for your needs. 

Could I be Ineligible for a Medical Marijuana Card In Pennsylvania? 

You could be ineligible for a card if you have been convicted of a drug-related offense in the last five years. You may also be ineligible if you have a history of drug abuse. 

Can I go to a dispensary without a card in Pennsylvania? 

The Pennsylvania cannabis laws restrict dispensaries from allowing anyone without a medical marijuana card in Pennsylvania into the dispensary. If you do not have a card, you will not be allowed inside the facility. Once you have your card, remember to bring your state ID with you as well to be admitted.  

Sources:

 

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