Acquiring a medical marijuana card in Arizona is simple in theory—consult a doctor, and if you qualify, receive a card. In practice it takes time, patience, determination, and a number of specific documents.
The Arizona Department of Public Health (ADHS) only accepts online medical marijuana applications; there is no way to apply in person or through the mail. The agency also requires all documents to be submitted in PDF format.
Using the health department’s Patient Checklist will save you a lot of time and hassle.
So if you’re not great with computers, or don’t have internet access, you’ll want to find a friend or relative who is. Librarians at most public libraries are often quite helpful and can usually get you to the ADHS Medical Marijuana home page on a public computer. Staff members at Arizona’s many medical marijuana-focused clinics can also help you through the process.
The current list of qualifying conditions is contained on the Arizona Department of Health Services’ medical marijuana home page, along with a helpful FAQ. ADHS also has a handy Patient Checklist that’s worth printing out and working through—it’ll save you a lot of time and hassle.
Here’s how to get started.
Do you qualify for medical marijuana in Arizona?
If you are an Arizona resident (with documents to prove it) and have one of the following conditions, you qualify:
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
A chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or the treatment for a chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition that causes:
- Cachexia or wasting syndrome
- Severe and chronic pain
- Severe nausea
- Seizures, including those characteristic of epilepsy
- Severe or persistent muscle spasms, including those characteristic of multiple sclerosis
If you believe you qualify under one of those conditions, your next step is to…
Consult a doctor
Allopathic (MD), Osteopathic (DO), Homeopathic [MD(H) or DO(H)], and Naturopathic [NMD or ND] physicians who have a physician-patient relationship with the patient may write certifications for medical marijuana. The physician must hold a valid Arizona license.
You will need current (within the last calendar year) medical records documenting your diagnosis with one of the above conditions.
If you have not yet been diagnosed with a qualifying condition, you will need to make an appointment with a licensed physician to formally obtain the diagnosis.
Not all doctors are comfortable handling medical marijuana patients. In fact, many family physicians are uncomfortable even discussing the option. Don’t let this discourage you.
Try your family doctor first, but if they are unreceptive, seek out the care of a physician experienced and comfortable with medical cannabis.
Do I have to get diagnosed all over again by a new doctor?
No. There’s a technical passage in the Arizona law that actually makes sense, and works for patients.
This is from the Arizona Department of Health Services web site: “The medical marijuana certification given to a qualifying patient does not have to come from the physician diagnosing the qualifying patient’s debilitating condition.”
The certification can come from a different physician whom the patient has consulted about the use of medical marijuana. If that second physician can confirm the patient’s qualifying condition (usually by consulting the patient’s medical records, which would contain written evidence of the condition), and believes the patient is likely to receive therapy or comfort through the use of medical marijuana, the second physician may give the certification.
About those medical records
Most of us don’t walk around carrying our medical records. If your personal physician is uncomfortable with medical cannabis and you want to consult a second caregiver, you may want to grant that second caregiver access to your medical records.
For some people, this can get tricky, because the old stigmas about cannabis come into play. Some patients may be reluctant to have a medical cannabis-focused clinic request records from their personal doctor because it alerts the family physician and might be seen as a rejection of that doctor’s advice or care.
Here’s a tip: Request a complete copy of your health records now, before initiating a conversation with your family doctor about the possibility of medical cannabis. Tell them it’s for a family history project. Whatever. They’re your records and you have a legal right to them according to the federal HIPPAA law. In fact, the health clinic must by law deliver those records to you within 30 days of your request. https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/getting-medical-records-information-rights-32220.html
How do I get a card?
Once you have your medical records in hand, you’ll need the following to file your medical marijuana card application with the assistance of your doctor:
- An Arizona photo ID issued after 1996 (driver’s license, identiﬁcation card, or U.S. Passport). Note: You may need an electronic copy of this, ie, take a digital photo of the front and back of the ID.
- A Mastercard or Visa debit, credit, or prepaid card. This is required to pay the Arizona Department of Health State’s $150 application fee.
- A digital photograph of the patient. Note the specs here: ADHS specifically requires a photo taken within the past 60 days; it must be 2 inches by 2 inches in size, or minimum 600×600 pixels, maximum 1200×1200 pixels; it must be in “passport photo” style, face-fronting with no hats or headgear, with a plain white background.
What if the patient is under 18?
There are special rules and regulations for patients who are minors. Consult ADHS’s page dedicated to patients under 18, available here.
What if the patient has a criminal record?
There are no criminal background checks or prohibitions for medical marijuana patients in Arizona. Background checks are only required for designated caregivers and dispensary agents.
What are the costs?
The standard application fee is $150. Arizona discounts this fee to $75 for participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamp card). Your SNAP Card must have your first name on the front. If it does not, the state will need to see your SNAP approval letter from D.E.S. (the state Department of Economic Security).
Fees for processing the application will vary by physician. Typically they range between $150 and $300. Some providers offer discounts for military veterans, as well as home visits for patients who cannot make it to an outside office.
How long will it take to get my card?
Once the Arizona Department of Health receives the application from your physician, processing time can take as little as 3-5 business days or as much as two weeks. Initial notification is sent to the patient via email. Once your application has been approved by the Arizona Department of Health, your medical marijuana card should arrive at your mailing address within 3-10 business days.
Does the card expire?
Yes. The registry identification card expires one year after it was issued. The renewal process should be started at least 30 days before the expiration date, and those forms and instructions can be found on the ADHS site here. The renewal fee is $150.
If I live in another state and visit Arizona frequently, can I obtain an Arizona card?
If you can provide some proof of Arizona residency, and meet all the above conditions, you may qualify for an Arizona card. Patients with medical marijuana cards from other states may legally possess and use cannabis for medical purposes while in Arizona. But they may not obtain medical cannabis from a dispensary, because all Arizona dispensaries must verify that a patient is registered in the ADHS system before dispensing cannabis.