Whether you call it medical marijuana, medical cannabis or MMJ, medicine derived from cannabis plants is now available in dozens of states. Each state has its own rules and regulations for production, distribution, possession, and use. In nearly every state where medical marijuana is allowed, patients must obtain what is known as a medical cannabis card.

In some states, the card is tangible. In others it is digital in the sense that you download the information to your smartphone and present it when you buy your product.

So, how do you get a medical marijuana card in your state? The following four-step process outlines the basics. If you have any questions above and beyond what you read here, you can always contact state authorities or visit your state’s website. You will find state information by searching the term ‘medical cannabis’.

Step #1 – Check State Laws

The obvious first step is to check the laws in your state. There are now thirty-six states that allow medical marijuana use. The District of Columbia also allows it. Some seventeen states allow recreational use as well, so the only way to know where your state stands is to do some research.

Utah is one of the states with a medical-only program. The easiest way to find information on state law is to run an internet search on the term ‘medical cannabis in Utah’. Deseret Wellness, a medical marijuana pharmacy in Provo, says the state website is very thorough.

Step #2 – Verify Your Medical Condition

Assuming medical cannabis is allowed in your state, the next step is to verify that your medical condition qualifies. State medical programs are not a free-for-all. They limit how medical cannabis can be used to treat illness and disease. If you suffer from epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, cancer, or PTSD, you should be okay in virtually any state that recognizes medical cannabis.

Step #3 – Visit a Medical Provider

Medical providers are ultimately the ones who decide whether or not a patient qualifies for medical cannabis use. The term ‘providers’ is used here because it is not a given that all patients must see a doctor. Doctors are medical providers, for sure, yet some states also allow physician assistants and nurse practitioners to recommend cannabis.

Most states require medical providers to undergo additional education and be certified before they can help medical cannabis patients obtain their cards. Also note that medical providers have to provide documentation of their recommendation, at the very least. In some states, they also have to fill out a portion of the patient’s application.

Step #4 – Submit Your Application

The final step is to submit your application to the state. How you go about it varies from one state to the next. If your state mandates paper application forms you download and print, you’ll have to get your form before you visit your medical provider. Take it with you so that your medical provider can complete their portion.

If your state relies on an electronic application, your medical provider will do their part after your visit. Your responsibility is to get on the state website, set up an account, and submit the application electronically. Also be prepared to pay an application fee at that time. Fees vary by state.

Complete the four steps and you’re all done. Now it is a matter of waiting to see if the state approves. Approval will result in your card being issued and sent either electronically or through the mail. Rejection will result in a notice from the state along with a reason for the rejection.