After California voters passed Proposition 64 in 2016, recreational weed enthusiasts no longer had to resort to the black market or claim dubious medical conditions to obtain a medical marijuana recommendation. But the medical marijuana market is still an important part of the overall cannabis industry, serving customers with legit maladies while exempting their purchases from taxes and fees.

Medical marijuana recommendations also allow patients to possess and grow larger quantities of cannabis, which is one of the many reasons it’s a good idea to get a state-issued ID card. While most medical dispensaries will accept paper or digital recommendations, law enforcement tends to take official cards more seriously.

Here’s what you need to know about getting a medical marijuana ID card in San Diego:


Before applying for a medical marijuana ID card, you will need to obtain a recommendation from a doctor. This isn’t as daunting as it seems. Although San Diego County has an official list of qualifying conditions, it will accept a recommendation from any licensed medical doctor, and you don’t even have to list your specific condition on the ID application. The county’s list of “serious” medical conditions includes:

  • AIDS
  • Anorexia
  • Arthritis
  • Cachexia
  • Cancer
  • Chronic pain
  • Glaucoma
  • Migraines
  • Seizures
  • Severe nausea
  • Persistent muscle spasms
  • Any chronic medical condition that either causes harm if not alleviated, or limits the patient’s ability to conduct one or more major life activity as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

Application process

Although the medical marijuana ID card program is facilitated by California as part of the passage of State Bill 420 (haha, of course) in 2003, you must apply through the county of your residence. For San Diego County, you can obtain an application by mail, in person, or online, but completed applications are accepted by appointment only. You’ll need to call (619) 692-5723 to schedule an appointment.

When you submit your application, you’ll need to bring the following:

  • Signed and completed medical marijuana ID card application or renewal form
  • Valid government-issued ID card, such as a driver’s license, passport, Veteran’s Administration Card, etc.
  • Proof of residency in San Diego County, including current California vehicle registration, current rent/mortgage receipt, or utility bill that shows your name and current address
  • Written documentation from your doctor (on doctor’s official letterhead) or a CDPH 9044 form, including an original signature, contact information, and your doctor’s California medical license number
  • Application fee of $44 (or $22 for Medi-Cal beneficiaries), in cash, cashier’s check, or money order—credit and debit cards are charged a $2.50 fee

You can either return to the county office (3851 Rosecrans St., Suite 802, San Diego) to pick up your ID card later, or they’ll send it to you if you bring in a prepaid FedEx envelope to your application appointment.


The most immediate benefit from a medical marijuana ID card (aside from the ability to alleviate your medical condition) is fewer fees. Recreational cannabis is subject to heavy taxes (which, honestly, most people would gladly pay instead of misdemeanor possession tickets). You can save as much as 20 percent on medical marijuana.

If you opt to grow your own, a medical marijuana recommendation will allow you to cultivate more plants than recreational users (six mature or 12 immature plants, compared to six plants total according to recreational growing regulations). But whether you grow or buy cannabis from a dispensary, having a medical marijuana ID card is key if you’re ever confronted by law enforcement. They might question a paper recommendation, but California law states that anyone in possession of a valid medical marijuana ID card cannot be arrested for possession, transportation, or cultivation if the amounts fall within legal limits.

Recreational and medical users welcome at Balboa Ave Cooperative

Whether you’re cheerfully enjoying your recreational rights under Prop. 64 or you’re a medical marijuana patient in need of relief, Balboa Ave Cooperative has a huge variety of flower, concentrates, edibles and more. Give us a call at (858) 598-5004 or stop in today.