State-issued medical marijuana cards come with hassle and perks

Patients can avoid sales tax on purchases

Patients with a state-issued cannabis card, including the author, are exempt from sales tax.

Patients with a state-issued cannabis card, including the author, are exempt from sales tax.

Photo by Ken Magr

Produced by N&R Publications, a division of News & Review.

After cannabis went legal for recreational sales, medical users changed from new brides into bridesmaids. Prices went up for them as well, and some ask whether doctor’s recommendations are still worthwhile.

For many, the answer is yes. Medical patients can possess more cannabis, grow more plants, and buy stronger edibles. They can continue shopping at medical-only outlets and are safe from any future federal prosecutions.

With an official California Medical Marijuana Identification Card (MMIC), patients are also exempt from the state's 8.25 percent sales tax. The annual card costs $100, plus a doctor's recommendation. One would need to spend $140 per month to break even. While you can still get medical marijuana with your recommendation, the MMIC is the only way to get a sales tax break, so it's worth the hassle for some patients.

After downloading an application form, the earliest available appointment at Sacramento County Vital Records was six weeks away. “Do you want it?” they asked me. “Because the next one isn't for another month. We only do this on Wednesdays and Fridays.”

I got lucky when someone canceled, so I drove to South Sacramento with my completed form, doctor's recommendation, proof of residence and cash. Mara from Vital Records invited me into the tiny “interview room” to double-check the paperwork and snap my picture.

Mara explained that after they confirm the recommendation with my doctor, I could come pick up the card on Friday.

“I need to come back again?” I asked. “It's almost like the state doesn't want people to have a medical card.”

Mara smiled, “We found it's safer this way than mailing them out.”

Excited to get the card, I drove down again on Friday, and … oh my god … I hate my picture!

I paid a visit to Golden Health and Wellness, where they hadn't seen the new ID cards. “Look, state-issued,” I told the security guard, but he still wanted to see a driver's license. Julian the budtender noticed it didn't have my name, just a number. Nevertheless, the card saved me nine bucks on sales tax, and for at least a few moments, I felt like a new bride again.