MA Department of Health- Medical Use of Marijuana Program
How do I get my medical marijuana card?
Chapter 369 of the Acts of 2012, An Act for the Humanitarian Medical Use of Marijuana (“the Act”), allows a qualifying patient who suffers from a debilitating medical condition to possess a 60-day supply of marijuana if the patient has a written certification from a Massachusetts licensed physician and is registered with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH).
Who is eligible to become a qualifying patient?
Massachusetts residents at least 18 years of age: A Massachusetts resident 18 years of age or older who has been diagnosed by a certifying physician as having a debilitating medical condition may become a qualifying patient.
Massachusetts’s residents under the age of 18 will only qualify under limited circumstances and with an elevated standard. Two Massachusetts licensed certifying physicians (at least one of whom is a board-certified pediatrician or board-certified pediatric subspecialist) must diagnose the qualifying patient as having a debilitating life-limiting illness (one that does not respond to curative treatments, where reasonable estimates of prognosis suggest death may occur within two years).
If the debilitating medical condition is not life limiting, both physicians must determine that the benefits of the medical use of marijuana outweigh the risks. There must be a discussion of the potential negative impacts on neurological development with the parent or legal guardian of the qualifying patient, written consent of the parent or legal guardian, and documentation of the rationale in the medical record and the written certification.
What is a “debilitating medical condition”?
As described in the Act, a debilitating medical condition includes “cancer, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis (when such diseases are debilitating), and other debilitating conditions as determined in writing by a qualifying patient’s certifying physician.”
“Debilitating” is defined in the Regulations as “causing weakness, cachexia, wasting syndrome, intractable pain, or nausea, or impairing strength or ability, and progressing to such an extent that one or more of a patient’s major life activities is substantially limited.”
If a patient has had a diagnosis of a debilitating medical condition in the past, but does not have an active condition (unless the symptoms related to such condition are mitigated by the medical use of marijuana), and is not undergoing treatment for such a condition, the patient is not to be considered to be suffering from a debilitating medical condition.
Steps to Certification with the State
Step 1- Contact a Qualifying Physician’s Office. This may be your primary care doctor or more likely, a physician who specializes in medical cannabis (see -List of Qualifying Physicians). Tell the qualifying physician’s office that you want to become a legal marijuana patient. The qualifying physician’s office will explain their office procedures and policies. Most of the qualifying doctors have websites that provide all the information you need. The qualifying physicians office will give you their fax number so you can provide their fax number to your health care provider (primary care, specialist such as neurologist, oncologist, hospital or mental health provider) that has the medical records of your debilitating medical condition. You may have to send the request in writing through a medial release form. Your healthcare provider will tell you what you need to do to have your medical records sent. Your healthcare provider will then fax those records over for the qualifying doctor’s review.
If your primary care has become a qualifying physician and is registered with the State as such, they already have your records and you can skip to Step 4.
Step 2- Medical Records- a patient who wants to become a legal medical marijuana patient must provide their medical records to a qualifying physician as proof they have a debilitating medical condition. The Medical Marijuana law specifies: cancer, glaucoma, AIDS, hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and other conditions as determined in writing by a qualifying patient’s physician.
HIPAA Privacy Rule and Massachusetts law give you rights to see and get a copy of your medical records and other rights. The HIPAA Privacy Rule only covers health care providers that use computers to send health information for certain administrative or financial purposes (such as filing claims for insurance). Most health care providers including hospitals have to follow this rule and must give you access to your medical record no later than 30 days after they receive your request. Under rules set by the Board of Registration in Medicine, doctors usually must respond to your request within 14-21 days. Your health care provider is allowed to charge you for copying/printing your record. They can also charge for the actual cost for postage or delivery. Generally, your health care provider must give you a copy in the format that you request if they are able to do so. Faxing your records does not require printing so these records are free when they are sent between health care providers. To get your medical record, you should ask your health care provider about their specific procedures. Often, your provider has a form for requesting your medical record. You should use this form if one is available. You should be able to find some information about getting your medical record in your health care provider’s notice of privacy practices. Your health care provider can charge you $0.50 a page for the first 100 pages if request a printed version of your medical record. Healthcare providers will not email nor fax your records directly to you. However, they will fax between healthcare providers for free.
Step 3- You are approved for an appointment! The qualifying physician’s office will contact you about setting up and paying for your appointment. Currently, insurance companies do not pay for expenses related to medical marijuana. At your appointment, you will be examined by this physician like every other doctor’s office visit. S/he will also discuss your use of medical marijuana/cannabis. You will need to bring to your office visit, a government issued photo ID (driver’s license or Massachusetts ID card, Military ID and if needed, documents to show residency. You will need to know the last 4 digits of your social security number as the Medical Use of Marijuana Program Registry asks for that information. And if you have an email address you will want to provide this information if you want to apply for your marijuana card online. The qualifying physician will register you with the Department of Health-Medical Use of Marijuana Program at the end of your visit. The medical marijuana law requires that you have a bona-fide relationship with your qualifying physician so you will schedule a follow up appointment per their office policy.
Step 4- Applying for your medical marijuana card from the Department of Health-Medical Use of Marijuana Program - The Department of Health will email you your registration number, instructions and a link to their website for you to use to complete your application for your medical marijuana card. Check your junk mail folder if you don’t receive this email within a day or so after your office visit. You will be creating logins names and passwords for the Virtual Gateway and for the Medical Use Of Marijuana Program that you will use yearly to renew your card.
If you do not have an email address, then your letter will be mailed to you and you will need to contact the Medical Use of Marijuana Program to get the long form (paper form) that you will complete and mail back to them along with your required documents, photo and payment or fee waiver documents. Call 617-660-5370 to request the paper forms and learn more.
Read the instructions below before starting your to apply online!!
In order to apply using the MMJ Online System you will need the following:
- Internet access
- Access to a scanner, mobile scanning software, or pre-scanned digital copies of the documents (as explained below)
- A printer
- Your registration number as given to you by your qualifying physician
- A valid form of identification (as explained below);
- A photograph of yourself (as explained below);
- A form of payment, or proof of verified financial hardship (as explained below).
Gather all the documents that need to be provided to the Department of Health when applying for your card. These documents will be uploaded to the MMJ Online System during the patient registration process if you use your computer to apply. If you don’t have a scanner, you can use a smart phone camera. Take a photo of yourself (selfie), your documents and email them to yourself. Open the email and download the document onto your hard drive. Then choose that file on our hard drive to upload the document to the MMJ Online System. HINT- If your file is too large, edit the photo making it smaller and save the changes and try uploading it again.
What documents you will need when you apply:
A. Valid form of identification:
- Massachusetts driver's license;
- Massachusetts ID card (with a photograph of yourself);
- US passport AND another document that proves your Massachusetts residence; or
- US military ID AND another document that proves your Massachusetts residence.
Currently, this form of ID and your medical marijuana card (the card you are applying for) need to be with you at all times when you are processing medical marijuana or purchasing medical cannabis at a dispensary. For this reason, you probably DO NOT want to use your Passport or Military ID and the accompanying document to prove MA residency, AND, patients are reporting their applications being rejected because they have moved and their current address does not match the address on their license. DPH has told them to get new driver’s licenses!!
B. Photograph of Yourself -This photo will be placed on your Program ID card.
Your photo should be:
- In color;
- Uploaded as a square photo;
- Taken within the last 6 months to reflect what you look like now;
- Taken in front of a plain white or off-white background;
- Taken looking directly at the camera;
- Taken without smiling and with both eyes open; and
- Taken in clothing that you normally wear (for example, no clothing item that covers your face or head, except for religious purposes).
Please ensure that your photo is in .jpg or .bmp format with a maximum size of 2MB.You can open that file and edit the size by make it smaller. Save the changes and upload again. FYI-Patients have reported their application was rejected because the DPH wanted a photo of mostly their face. Other patients have sent in photos from the waist up successfully. FYI- Do not turn your smart phone camera on its side, as this will cause your photo to be uploaded sideways into the MMJ Online System. This will cause an internal error and you will have to call the Department of Health Support Center.
C. Form of Payment- There is a $50 fee to complete a patient registration. Acceptable forms of payment include:
- Credit card;
- Debit card;
- Bank account number and bank routing number; or
- f you are registering with paper forms, a check or money order payable to “The Commonwealth of Massachusetts”. Your check or money order must be included with the paper registration forms.
If you have a verified financial hardship, you may be qualified for a registration fee waiver. You are considered to have a verified financial hardship if you are a recipient of MassHealth, or Supplemental Security Income, or your income does not exceed 300% of the federal poverty level. In order to apply for a registration fee waiver, you must submit proof of verified financial hardship.
Proof of verified financial hardship includes the following:
- MassHealth card;
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefit verification letter;
- Form W-2 from this year or last year;
- State or federal tax return from this year or last year;
- Current (no more than 60 days old) pay stub with employer’s name and address and your name and residential address (if you are self-employed, submit your most recent quarterly loss/profit statement);
- SNAP Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) statement from the current year;
- Unemployment award letter for the current year; or
- Unemployment check stub for the current year.
D. Selecting a Personal Caregiver - While registering as a patient, you will be given the option to select a personal caregiver. A personal caregiver is someone who may assist you with your medical use of marijuana. You may designate up to two caregivers who are not currently designated by another patient, unless that caregiver is your immediate family member. In order to designate a personal caregiver you will need your caregiver’s registration number and last name. Please note that you may also select a caregiver in the future, after completing your patient registration.
Step 5- Applying for your card using a computer: step-by-step instructions - You will be sent several emails during the registration process. Each email will have instructions on how to complete the next step. Please note that the links may expire as soon as seven (7) days after being emailed to you and some links are valid only the first time that you click on the link.
The MMJ Online System times out after 30 minutes. If you would like to take a break during the registration process, a good stopping point is right after you receive a confirmation e-mail and before you click the link in the confirmation e-mail to start the next step of the registration process.
1. After a qualified health care provider enters you into the DPH-medical use of marijuana program, you will receive an email that includes a website link to create an account on the Virtual Gateway (VG). Click on the link in the email, or https://gateway.hhs.state.ma.us . Read and accept the terms and conditions, enter the personal information required, and select a 4-digit pin number. After answering the security question, click “Submit” to be taken to the next page.
2. You will then receive an email from the VG system telling you that your account request has been processed. This email will contain a link that you will click on in order to finish the VG registration process. At this link you will need to create a password and answer two security questions that will be used to reset your password if you forget it.
3. Once you complete this information you will be taken to a screen that contains your username. Your VG account is now created. Any time you wish to return to the MMJ Online System you will log in to the VG at https://gateway.hhs.state.ma.us with the username provided and the password you selected.
4. When you log in to the VG click on the link to “Medical Use of Marijuana System”. This will log you into the MMJ Online System. The MMJ Online System will then display the Welcome page.
5. Click “Register as a Patient” to access the Home Page for the MMJ Online System. This is where you will enter in your registration information, which includes your registration number that you received from your qualified health care provider, your last name, date of birth, and the last 4 digits of your Social Security Number. Click on “Proceed” to continue to the next page.
6. The next screen lists the instructions that are on the registration information you received from your qualified health care provider. Review these registration instructions and click on “Proceed.”
7. The confirmation screen with your registration number will appear. Click on “OK” to proceed. This will take you to the screen where you will enter additional registration information.
8. Complete your registration information and read and agree to the attestations. Read the list of requirements and check the box stating that you agree to comply with the requirements. Then click the “Proceed” button to be taken to the next screen.
9. On the next screen you may designate a personal caregiver, who is a person over the age of 21 that has agreed to assist you with the medical use of marijuana. Once you have selected if you would like to designate a caregiver, click on the “Proceed” button to be taken to the next screen. Please note that before you can designate a caregiver, the caregiver must be registered with the MMJ Online System and approved by DPH. Your selected caregiver must provide you with their registration number and last name in order for you to designate them as your caregiver.
10. Scan a copy of your Massachusetts Driver’s License and then upload the file to the MMJ Online system. If you do not have a Massachusetts Driver’s License, you will need to upload a scanned copy of another valid form of identification, as explained above. If another form of identification is used, proof of Massachusetts’s residency is required, as explained above. Click on “Browse” to find the correct file, select the file, and then click on the “Proceed” button.
11. Scan and upload a photo of you to the MMJ Online System. The photo must follow the photo guidelines explained above and will be used for identification purposes in the MMJ Online System. The photo will also be placed on your Registration ID card. Click on “Browse” to find the correct file, select the file, and then click on the “Proceed” button.
12: There is a registration fee of $50 that may be paid with any of the forms of payment listed above. Click the “Pay Fee” button at the bottom of the screen and follow the instructions to proceed.
There is an option to apply for a registration fee waiver if you have a verified financial hardship, as defined above. If you have a verified financial hardship, click the box that says “Apply for Registration Fee Waiver”. You will then be taken to a screen with a series of questions that must be answered. Once you are done, click "Submit", and the information will be reviewed by Medical Use of Marijuana Program to determine eligibility for a registration fee waiver. The request may take several weeks to process.
13. If you are not applying for a fee waiver, click on the “Pay Fee” button, which will take you to a secure payment screen where you can enter your payment information.
14. After you have entered all the information into the application, you will be taken to a screen to review your application. Review the information on the screen and click on the different sections of the application on the right side of the page if any changes are needed. Once all the information is correct, click on the box in the financial information Attestation that says that you agree that the income information, to the best of your knowledge, is true, correct, and complete, and then click “Submit”.
15: You will then be taken to a screen confirming submission of your application.
Step 6- Your application will then be reviewed by the Medical Use of Marijuana Program.
Step 7 -DPH responds by email to approve or deny your application. Once your registration is reviewed by the Department, you will be notified by email regarding the status of your registration. Registrations are processed in the order they are received.
- If approved, you will receive an email with a link to print your paper Program ID card while your plastic Program ID card should arrive within 60 days. Call the DPH if it does not arrive in 60 days.
- If denied, you will receive an email with the reason your application was denied and possible solution to the problem or you will have to call the Medical Use of Marijuana Support Center at 617-660-5370 to talk to someone about your denial.
Step 8-Program ID Card. Your plastic card will arrive within 60 days from the date you were approved by the DPH. You must have your Program ID card as well as the valid form of identification that you used to register in the MMJ Online System at all times when you possess or handle marijuana for medical use. There is a $10 fee to replace a lost Program ID card.
CHANGE OF ADDRESS -If you move, your address must be updated within 5 days.
QUESTIONS -Should you have questions regarding the registration process, please contact the Medical Use of Marijuana Program Support Center at 617-660-5370.
Massachusetts Department of Health
Massachusetts Department of Health Medical Marijuana Pages
Information for Patients and Caregivers
Program Update – October 8, 2014
The Medical Use of Marijuana Online System (MMJ Online System) is now available for qualifying patients to register to possess marijuana for medical purposes.
You will need to register with the MMJ Online System by January 1, 2015 in order to possess marijuana for medical purposes, even if you already have a paper written certification from your physician. Paper written certifications will no longer be valid as of February 1st, 2015.
You must make an appointment with your qualified health care provider in order to begin the registration process. Your provider will evaluate you to determine if you are qualified for the medical use of marijuana. If you are qualified, your provider will issue you a certification through the MMJ Online System.
Once your health care provider has issued you a certification, your provider will give you instructions on how to register through the MMJ Online System and your registration number. This registration number is required for you to register in the MMJ Online System.
If the Program approves your registration, you will receive a Medical Use of Marijuana Program ID card.
Massachusetts Department of Health
Massachusetts Department of Health Medical Marijuana Pages
How much medicine can I possess as medical marijuana patient?
Patients may possess a 60 day supply of medicine which is up to 10 ounces.
Can I grow my own medicine?
Only patients with permission from the state based on financial hardship or lack of a treatment center within a reasonable distance will be allowed to grow their own medicine when the law is fully implemented and dispensaries begin to open. At that time, the state will set up a process for patients who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), are on Mass Health, or whose incomes are less than 300% the federal poverty level to apply for hardship cultivation privileges.
How do I obtain my medicine before the treatment centers open?
The law affords patients with a debilitating condition and a written doctor’s recommendation the right to grow a limited amount of their own medicine to ensure patients with legitimate need have an option for safe access while we wait for the dispensaries to open.
Can I appoint a caregiver to transport medicine for me or cultivate on my behalf?
Patients can appoint two caregivers. Caregivers may transport medical marijuana for patients. They may also cultivate medical marijuana on behalf of patients who have been granted hardship cultivation registrations, but only at one location.
Each caregiver can only be connected to one individual patient.
Until another system is put in place, patients with a debilitating condition and a written doctor’s recommendation can designate a caregiver by mailing specific information to the state.
Over the next several months, the state will set up a system that may require patients to designate their caregiver using a different system. Watch this site to stay posted as the system evolves.
How many patients can each caregiver provide medicine for?
Regulations only allow caregivers to care for one patient. There is one exception to this rule: an immediate family member of more than one qualifying patient may be a caregiver for multiple patients who are also immediate family members.
“Immediate family member” means a spouse, parent, child, grandparent, grandchild, or sibling,
A patient who is cultivating for his or herself may also cultivate for a second patient who has designated them as one of their personal caregivers.
Can caregivers be compensated for cultivating medicine for patients?
Regulations state, “A personal caregiver may not receive payment or other compensation for services rendered as a personal caregiver, other than compensation for reasonable expenses incurred in the provision of services as a caregiver provided however that a caregiver’s time is not considered a reasonable expense.”
How much medicine can be cultivated on behalf of a qualifying patient?
Qualifying patients or their caregivers may only cultivate enough medicine to maintain a 60 day supply of marijuana for the patient’s medical use. A 60 day supply is no more than 10 ounces of usable marijuana.
I have already received a written recommendation from a doctor. When the state finishes setting up a registration system for patients, will my recommendation still be valid?
Written recommendations received before the system is set up for patients to receive a registration card from the state remain valid until the state sets up the registration system. This is expected to happen sometime in the spring or summer of 2014.
Patients who now have written recommendations will have to submit information to the state before that date in order to maintain their status as qualifying medical marijuana patients. Watch this site to stay posted about when the system is set up so that you will know when the state begins accepting applications for medical marijuana registration cards.
I have a written recommendation from a doctor who is not licensed in Massachusetts. Is this valid?
Regulations require that doctors writing recommendations for medical marijuana are licensed in Massachusetts. Regulations also define what constitutes a bona fide physician-patient relationship.
Bona fide physician-patient relationship means a relationship between a certifying physician, acting in the usual course of his or her professional practice, and a patient in which the physician has conducted a clinical visit, completed and documented a full assessment of the patient’s medical history and current medical condition, has explained the potential benefits and risks of marijuana use, and has a role in the ongoing care and treatment of the patient.
If you received a written recommendation before regulations went into effect on May 24, 2013, and it was written by a doctor not licensed in Massachusetts, or was issued by a doctor with whom you DO NOT have a bona fide physician-patient relationship, the safest thing for you to do is to get a new recommendation that meets these requirements.
This information is intended for educational purposes only. No reliance, expressed or implied, may be made on the information on this page or on any of its links. Any persons considering enrolling as a patient or caregiver in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts should consult an attorney first. This web page and its related links do not advocate that anyone violate state or federal law. The Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance is not responsible for any damages incurred as a result of your reliance on the educational information on this page.