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How Do You Buy Marijuana in California Now That It’s Legal?


On November 8, 2016, Proposition 64 was approved by California voters, making recreational marijuana legal for adults age 21 and over. The new law, dubbed the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA for short), designates state agencies to license and regulate cannabis, imposes taxes at both the cultivation and retail level, and allows for local regulation and taxation of cannabis, among other things.


But now that recreational pot is legal in California, can you just buy marijuana from any dispensary, or do you still need a medical marijuana card in CA to actually make purchases?


The short answer is no. Recreational shops won’t start serving anyone until at least January, 2018, though it could take up to a year before you can legally walk into a recreational dispensary. Until then, you’ll still need a doctor’s recommendation for medical cannabis.


This brings up A LOT of questions for medical marijuana patients and recreational users alike. We’ve updated this info for 2018’s upcoming recreational legalization.


Many of us are brimming with questions, though (ironically) correct answers are hard to come by. But fear not; this post will arm you with all the answers you need going into 2018.


A few uncertainties we’ll clarify include: 

  1. How do you buy recreational marijuana in California now that it’s legalized?
  2. What if you’re a medical cannabis patient in California? Is your patient-status affected?
  3. Do you still need a medical marijuana card in 2018?
  4. Do you need to renew your MMJ card, and, if so, will the process change or stay the same?


Do I Still Need a Medical Marijuana Card in California if Cannabis Is Legal?


To be blunt, yes, but it’s actually a lot easier to get your med card than you might think (we would know).


Click here to get your medical marijuana card online in about 15 minutes for just $39. You’ll speak with a friendly doctor, and you’re only billed if approved. Plus get $20 off your first cannabis delivery!


Now that the Proposition 64 has passed, or the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) as dubbed by its supporters, you might think that you’ll be able to walk into the nearest 7-Eleven and get a pack of joints.


Unfortunately, recreational pot shops won’t legally be allowed to serve consumers until at least January, 2018–though that date’s expected to be pushed back. Not to mention any store with a liquor license will be barred from acquiring a recreational marijuana business license under AUMA.


Why can’t I purchase recreational marijuana until 2018 in California?

Well, that’s an easy one. It’s because new government regulations always take forever to implement, and are rarely ever completed in the initially estimated time frames.


Now that Prop 64 passed, the Bureau for Medical Cannabis Regulation (as established by MCRSA) will be renamed the “Bureau of Marijuana Control” and won’t be slated to start issuing licenses to marijuana businesses until January 1, 2018.


But, according to Lynne Lyman, the director for California’s Drug Policy Alliance and one of the people who helped write the initiative, January 1st is the latest possible date that licenses can start being issued. That timeline has since been slowed down as the new year grows closer.


So, unless you’ve got the courage to hold-off until sometime in 2018 to soak (and smoke) in the marvel that is the California cannabis industry, you’re still going to need a medical cannabis recommendation.


But this shouldn’t come as a worry or a burden, as getting a medical weed card easily allows you to:

  • obtain cannabis at 18 years old
  • access over 1,000 California medical cannabis dispensaries
  • save 14-20% on marijuana costs using medical cannabis
  • purchase, possess, and grow (within 100 square feet) as much medical cannabis as necessary to treat your condition at home. 
  • protect yourself from police harassment and arrest for possessing, growing or transporting medical cannabis for personal use.



How to Get a Medical Marijuana Card After Legalization


How to get a medical marijuana card is a lot easier today than it used to be, but we’ll get to that soon. First, some history on how MMJ recommendations originated.


Thanks to the passing of Proposition 215, otherwise known as the Compassionate Use Act, California has legally allowed marijuana for medical uses since 1996, as long as a patient has a physician’s recommendation.


And special credit goes to the writers of Prop 215, who crafted the measure to state that medical cannabis can be used to treat “any condition for which marijuana provides relief.”


This quite literally means that anyone who can claim marijuana helps improve their physical or mental well-being qualifies to become a marijuana patient in California. And contrary to popular opinion, you actually do NOT need a California ID to become a patient in the state. It’s shocking how false claims spread the quickest.


All you need is a valid driver’s license or state ID from ANY state, and any condition for which medical marijuana provides you relief.


One of the co-authors for Prop 215, Dennis Peron, is considered the “father of the legalization movement” and said himself that the measure was intended to allow “literally everyone in the state the opportunity to legally access and cultivate as much cannabis as they need to feel good.”


And while California does have its own cannabis ID card program, you are not required to possess a state-issued ID to be considered a legal patient. All you need is a doctor’s recommendation.


So, knowing that the only way to currently access cannabis is by getting a marijuana recommendation, how do you get one? We saved the best for last, so skip there if you just can’t wait to become a legal patient.


Ask Your Primary Doctor


The first (and admittedly the most intimidating) option you have to get a MMJ recommendation is to ask your primary physician. If he or she can at least have an honest discussion about how cannabis might be beneficial for your condition, you’re on the right track.


But, unfortunately, even with Prop 64 on the ballot and medical marijuana having been long-established in California, the majority of traditional doctors still won’t write you a recommendation for marijuana. Some people have stories of completely severed relationships with their doctor just because they posed the question.


So, before you muster up the courage to ask your doctor directly, and risk potential consequence, understand that you have two other options.


Visit a Medical Marijuana Doctor Evaluation Center

With the sad reality being that most American physicians don’t write patients weed prescriptions, a new type of specialized doctor has emerged, a “cannabis specialist” if you will.


These medical marijuana doctors go by many names — 420 doctors, pot doctors, weed doctors, mmj doctors, green doctors, prop 215 doctors — the list goes on and on. And while some are noticeably more legitimate than others, they all cater to the massive California population that wants to legally use cannabis with a med card.


You can google “medical marijuana evaluations near me,” which brings up a few local listings on Yelp or Weedmaps. Then you scroll through these options, check out the reviews (some of which seem fake), prices, distances, and ultimately end up choosing the most convenient one.


When you finally visit the nearest cannabis doc, it feels similar to a typical doctor’s office. They’ll ask for your ID, if you’re a new patient or getting a renewal (recs are only valid for a year), then you’ll sit down to fill out a series of forms describing your condition and medical history.


Once finished, you’ll need to wait your turn to see the doctor. Depending on which evaluation center you visit (there are many scattered across major CA cities like San Jose, San Diego, San Francisco, and Los Angeles), wait times average anywhere from 30 to 120 minutes.


You’ll then sit down face-to-face with the doctor to determine if cannabis is right for you. If that’s indeed the case, you’ll be approved and issued your recommendation. But if you’re not approved, don’t be surprised if you’re charged a hefty anyway.


Unfortunately, just like with people asking their primary physician, there’s no shortage of horror stories from patients waiting hours for their mmj evaluation, encountering rude and uncompassionate doctors, being sold on extras they didn’t need, and even getting overcharged (the “bait-and-switch” is an all-too-common scam at evaluation centers) when getting their recommendation.


Needless to say, the in-person experience can leave much to be desired.


See a Medical Marijuana Doctor Online

We’re talking of course about the emergence of online evaluation services, ones that allow patients and doctors to connect virtually (either by video or phone call) to conduct a good-faith examination and get approved for medical cannabis without seeing the doctor in-person!


The entire process is quick, affordable, easy, and 100% legal thanks to California’s telemedicine health laws.


Typically, it goes like this: sign up online, provide basic personal and medical information then have a quick consultation with a pro-cannabis doctor to get approved. Then you’ll receive an instant electronic recommendation for same-day use (you must print it out) while your official paper copy (along with your NuggMD ID Card, if you opted for it) comes in the mail a few days later.


Yup, it’s THAT easy.


Now, there are several online mmj doctor services, but you’ll find the most value from NuggMD. The service started in 2015 and has since helped tens of thousands of patients get their medical marijuana card online and access cannabis delivery from quality dispensaries through their online marketplace platform, Nugg.


When stacked up against the competition, NuggMD just can’t be beat. Here’s what they offer:


  • The lowest online price for a recommendation, just $39.
  • An optional hard, plastic ID card (only $20 extra).
  • On-demand consultations, which means no appointment needed.
  • An instant electronic (PDF) recommendation that can be used immediately to order delivery online through Nugg-partnered cannabis dispensaries.
  • An official signed paper copy of your doctor’s recommendation with a raised, embossed seal that all CA dispensaries require (and many online med card services don’t provide).
  • $20 credit to order from ANY Nugg dispensary partner using the blog promo code BLOG20; you can literally get your MMJ card and cannabis delivered in the same hour.



Why Wait for Recreational’s Limitations?


The Adult Use of Marijuana Act is sure to bring many changes, and challenges, to how the legal cannabis industry looks and works in California. From a consumer perspective, you still need a medical cannabis card to purchase marijuana until recreational pot shops open, which will not happen the first of January ’18.


But once you reap MMJ’s benefits and feel its long term value, you won’t want the hassle of being a recreational user.

Nugg Team :Nugg is the "GrubHub for marijuana." Our site lets medical marijuana patients order online from dispensaries that deliver to them. Signup with the code BLOG20 for a $20 credit on your first order!

View Comments (39)

  • I am planing to visit california with my family for a few weeks coming from south africa. I have a condition which requires to medicate with cannabis. My question: can i get an online medical marijuana card when in not from the US?

    • Hi Jan,

      Currently you must be a legal California or Nevada resident to sign up with our service. We hope you find some relief while visiting California.

    • Hi Jeff,

      Currently you must be a California or Nevada resident to get a NuggMD card, but we are expanding across the country.

  • Hi, Thank for sharing such a nice information. One think i must say is you must have a strong reasons to take MMJ treatment. Medical cannabis in San Francisco, California is nothing all that new. Rather, it is one of the states in the U.S., where medical cannabis is supported and promoted for genuine medical cases.

  • You must be an idiot to pay a doctor to get permission to smoke pot. Do you need a doctor's permission to buy alcohol.

    • Our $39 service connects needy California patients who think mmj can help cure or alleviate their condition with qualified doctors that can recommend it. Once approved you can walk into or order delivery from any California dispensary and choose from several mmj products like edibles, drinkables, cartridges, concentrates, tinctures and capsules—not just flower for smoking or vaping, which some of our patients don't like or can't do.

  • Im confused about the difference between a doctor's rec and a card. If i just get the rec does my info not go to the CA public health dept? Also is there a limit to the amount i can get with a doctor's rec? Is it only for one time?

    • Hi John,

      A NuggMD rec costs $39; or you can get your rec and a NuggMD ID card (a convenient, wallet-sized version of your rec with your pic) for $59. Your rec/ID card will be good for one year and can be renewed for the same low $39 price annually. Your info does not and will not go to the state.

      Signing up for the state's official mmj ID card program is a separate, more costly process that requires your personal info.

      If by "limit" you mean the amount of medical cannabis you can get, there is none, though dispensaries will grow suspicious if you start buying a pound a week.

      We hope this helps!

  • Nice how-to guide. Indeed, despite legality pronouncement, there are still specific rules to implement it. Thank you for this article.

  • thanks for your article but you failed to mention the issues of sales taxes ...

    1) does having a MM card/recommendation allow you to avoid paying retail sales tax on marijuana ?
    2) after 1/1/18, is the only reason to renew your medical marijuana card the ability to avoid paying sales tax ??

    this is my understanding ... one retail outlet said they will only NOT charge me sales tax if i have a MM card issued by the STATE, Department of Public Health which i believe is $100 ...

    do you know anything about this ... you didn't cover any of this in your article ...

    thanks for addressing these issues

  • I am happy because buying recreational cannabis in California is now legal. I am planning to move with my family next year! Thank you for the good news!