Just like you need a driver’s license to drive, you need a Medical Marijuana Card to possess and use medical marijuana in Massachusetts. While paper certifications were sufficient proof of patient authorization prior to February 1, 2015, updated rules set by the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services now mandate electronic certification and formal registration with the Medical Use of Marijuana Program. Even if you already have a paper certification, that’s simply no longer enough. Every Massachusetts medical marijuana patient must comply with the new registration requirements – no ifs, ands, or buts.
As a physician who specializes in treating illnesses and injuries with medical Cannabis, I’ve encountered more than one patient who had questions about the complicated registration process. The rules and requirements can be stringent (down to specifying how you should look at the camera for your photo ID), and it’s easy to get lost along the way. In order to help patients get access to the medical care they need as smoothly and rapidly as possible, I’ve compiled this step-by-step guide to the Massachusetts medical Cannabis patient registration process.
If you have any questions at all about whether Cannabis could be right for your condition, I invite you to call me at (617) 477-8886 to confidentially discuss your eligibility as a medical marijuana patient. Cannabis has enabled countless people of all ages to safely and effectively manage their symptoms.
Which Conditions Qualify Patients to Use Cannabis?
Before we begin discussing the registration process itself, let’s backtrack to cover the patient prerequisites mandated by state law.
In order to qualify to use medical Cannabis, you’ll first need to obtain a written recommendation from a licensed physician stating that the benefits of Cannabis therapy would outweigh the potential risks. In accordance with Section 2(C) of the Act for the Humanitarian Use of Medical Marijuana, all of the following “debilitating medical conditions” are potentially eligible for treatment with Cannabis:
- Crohn’s Disease
- Hepatitis C
- MS (Multiple Sclerosis)
- Parkinson’s Disease
Other conditions which may qualify include chronic pain, rheumatoid arthritis, anxiety, depression, chronic insomnia, and anorexia. The health benefits of marijuana are wide-ranging, and can help patients suffering from a very broad spectrum of conditions.
Preparing Before You Register: Gathering Your Documents
Once you’ve talked to your doctor about medical marijuana and have obtained certification from a licensed physician, the next step is getting registered. However, before you begin the process, you’ll also need to compile some additional documents. Take some time to gather the following:
- A valid photo ID. Acceptable forms include:
- MA driver’s license
- MA state ID
- U.S. passport plus proof of residency
- U.S. military ID plus proof of residency
- A picture of yourself. Yes, it’s okay to use a selfie, as long as the photo meets the following requirements:
- It’s in color.
- It’s from the past six months.
- It only shows your head and shoulders.
- You’re standing in front of a plain white background.
- You’re looking at the camera (no smiling allowed).
- Only religious headwear is acceptable. Take off your hat and glasses.
- Your PIN. No, not your ATM PIN – you should receive a special PIN via email from the Medical Use of Marijuana Program once you’ve been certified by your physician.
You’ll also need to connect your computer to a scanner, because during registration you’ll be required to scan in and upload images of your ID cards and other documents. If you don’t have a scanner, you can use your phone to take photos and then upload them to your computer.
If you drive, try not to get too stressed out about the rules for using the right photograph. As long as you have a valid driver’s license, the DPH can access your ID photo from the RMV, provided your name and address match on each organization’s records. (Note that it may not necessarily match what’s printed on your card, because the DPH no longer issues updated versions for changes of address.)
Steps to the Online MA Medical Marijuana Registration Process
Now that you’re all set with your certification and supporting documents, it’s time to get started. There are two ways to register as a medical marijuana patient:
- Online – The Department of Public Health (DPH) recommends registering online, which is the fastest and easiest method. However, online registration still involves 15 separate steps, so be prepared to set aside some time to complete the process.
- On Paper – You cannot download a paper registration form from the internet. To request the form, you must call (617) 660-5370.
Patients using the online method register through the MMJ Online System, which includes a Virtual Gateway component. For the purposes of this article, VG will refer to the Virtual Gateway (steps one through four), while MMJOS while refer to the MMJ Online System (steps five through 15).
Let’s go through each stage of the process one step at a time.
- Step 1 – Scan (or photograph) your photo ID and the picture of yourself. The ID serves as proof of residency (unless it’s a passport or military ID), while the picture of yourself will go on your Medical Marijuana Card. (That’s why it has to meet specific requirements.) Make sure you save any images as a .jpg or .pdf, and that the file size doesn’t exceed 2 MB.
- Step 2 – Navigate to the VG. Click on the button saying you accept the terms and conditions. Find the “Service Name” menu, click on “Medical Use of Marijuana System,” and answer the information prompts. This is where your PIN comes in.
- Step 3 – Look for an email from the VG. (If you don’t see it, check your spam folder.) Click the link in the email, which will bring you to a password screen. Make sure you memorize your password and security questions, or write them down somewhere safe. When you’re all done, click “Submit.”
- Step 4 – Clicking “Submit” should bring up a screen that shows your account and username. This will be your VG account going forward. Click “Log In” and use the password you just created.
These four steps complete the VG part of the registration process – but you still have another 11 steps to go before you’re finished. The remaining steps involve the MMJOS.
- Step 5 – Click the button that says “Medical Use of Marijuana System,” which will send you into the MMJOS.
- Step 6 – The first thing you’ll see inside the MMJOS is a welcome screen. To get started, click the button that says “Register as a Patient.”
- Step 7 – Clicking “Register as a Patient” will bring you to an identification page. The identification page will prompt you to type in your PIN once more, as well as your last name, your DOB, and the last four digits of your Social Security Number (SSN). Once you’re done, click “Proceed.”
- Step 8 – You don’t have to type anything in on the next screen. Just go over the instructions, then click “Proceed” when you’re satisfied that you understand everything.
- Step 9 – After you click “Proceed,” the next screen should contain Registration Information. Again, you’ll have to read and accept the terms and conditions. Click “Proceed” when you’re finished.
- Step 10 – The next screen is for “Valid Form of Identification.” This screen requires you to upload your ID scan/photograph again. You should see a menu to select the type of ID you’re uploading. There’s a box to enter information about the ID (e.g. expiration date), as well as a “Browse” button to find and select the image(s) you want to upload. Click “Proceed” when you’re done.
- Step 11 – The next screen is for “Upload Photo.” Click “Browse,” find the file, click “Upload,” and then finish by clicking the “Proceed” button.
- Step 12 – Now it’s time to pay the registration fee at the “Registration Payment” screen, so get your debit or credit card ready. The fee is $50 unless you get a waiver. If you want to request a fee waiver, check off the waiver box. If not, click the “Pay Fee” button. When you’re done, click “Proceed.”
- Step 13 – If you clicked the “Pay Fee” button in Step 12, you’ll be prompted to type in your payment information. When you’re finished, click the “Authorize Payment” button. (If you checked the waiver application box in Step 12, just follow the prompts on the “Fee Waiver Application” screen. It will take a few weeks for the waiver application to be processed.)
- Step 14 – Now that you’re done paying, uploading, and entering your information, it’s time to give everything a final once-over for any mistakes or omissions at the “Review and Submit Application” screen. If you need to fix a mistake or fill in something you left blank, just click on “Back” until you reach the screen with the problem. Once everything is to your liking, click “Proceed’ until you get back to the “Review and Submit Application” screen where Step 14 started. If everything looks good, go ahead and click “Submit.”
- Step 15 – Congratulations, you’re all done! You’ll be returned to the “Home” screen, which should display a message that your application has been submitted.
Contact Inhale MD for Help Getting Started
And that’s it! If registration goes smoothly and you’re approved by the Medical Use of Marijuana Program, you’ll be able to print out a temporary Medical Marijuana Card that will last for four weeks. You should receive a permanent card in the mail before the temporary card expires. If you don’t, just call (617) 660-5370 to ask about the status of your permanent Medical Marijuana Card.
Last but not least, it’s important to emphasize that registration doesn’t last forever. All Massachusetts Cannabis patients are required to re-register every year. You can re-register up to 60 days in advance when the next annual registration time rolls around.
Don’t be discouraged by harmful and misguided myths about Cannabis: medical marijuana has helped countless patients manage their symptoms and enjoy a greater degree of physical comfort in their everyday lives. If you’re living with chronic pain, chronic insomnia, cancer, arthritis, anxiety, ALS, depression, MS, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, or are undergoing chemotherapy, medical Cannabis could be right for you. Inhale MD may be able to help. Call Dr. Tishler at (617) 477-8886 to start discussing your medical needs in a confidential consultation.
MA specifically qualified conditions:
- Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) or HIV positive status
- Hepatitis C
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
- Crohn’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
And other debilitating conditions as determined in writing by a qualifying patient’s physician, which may include:
- Chronic back pain
- Rheumatoid Arthritis