Doctor, doctor

Ngaio Bealum is a Sacramento comedian, activist and marijuana expert. Email him questions at

I’m wanting to get myself a cannabis card for a sleeping disorder. Can you—or do you—recommend a place near Elk Grove, Sacramento or even Stockton, where I can purchase a card that is very well-known throughout all dispensaries in California? I’m looking for the American Express Gold card of cannabis cards. I don’t have a doctor’s recommendation.


Let us discuss cards and letters for a moment. All you really need is a letter of recommendation from your doctor. Technically, a verbal recommendation also works, but the authorities and cannabis clubs love paperwork. There are plenty of doctors out there that will write you a letter; has an easy-to-use list.

When you go into a club, it will check your letter and your ID. It will also check on the doctor issuing the recommendation to make sure that he or she is in good standing with the medical board and to make sure that doctor even exists. You would be surprised at how many people try to forge a doctor’s letter.

When medical marijuana clubs started out in Northern California, most of them weren’t set up to verify every patient with a letter. The Patient ID Center in downtown Oakland established itself as one of the best in the patient-verifying, cannabis-card-issuing business. It also issues the Alameda County medical-cannabis card (more on that below). PDIC keeps excellent records, and its verification process is impeccable. There was a time when many clubs in the Bay Area wouldn’t let you in if you didn’t have the PIDC card.

Down in Los Angeles, it was different. More than a few “fly-by-night” businesses tried to get in on the cannabis-card-issuing game, but broke trust by not verifying patients or doctors and allowing anyone to walk in and get a card. It got to the point that no club in Los Angeles would take a card; they all wanted to see a letter. For people that traveled back and forth from NorCal to SoCal, it was kind of a drag.

Now, of course, you can use a card or a letter, I suppose. The clubs have verifying patients down to a science, and most doctors offer some sort of 24-hour verifying service.

The Cadillac of cannabis cards would be the one issued by the health department in the county where you reside. County-issued cards are accepted everywhere, and the cops can’t front about forgery or bogusness (is that a word?) [Editor’s note: Yes, it is.] when you hand them one.

And the county doesn’t keep a record of your name or address. You get an identifying number on your card, and the county destroys your personal info.

These cards are expensive, though. The one from Sacramento County will cost you about $166, or $83 if you are on Medi-Cal. That’s on top of what you will pay the doctor for the examination and recommendation. Welcome to the world of medical cannabis. Sweet dreams.