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Navigating the Age Requirement Laws for Medical Cannabis

Bethan Rose

by Bethan Rose

March 8, 2024 08:00 am ET Estimated Read Time: 8 Minutes
Fact checked by Kymberly Drapcho
Navigating the Age Requirement Laws for Medical Cannabis

According to Statista’s projections for the United States, the medical cannabis market will soar in value to more than $11 billion by 2024—double the revenue reported in 2019. The recreational cannabis industry is also on a winning streak, with revenue from the adult-use sector amounting to a record $17.5 billion last year.

While individuals below age 21 cannot legally purchase and use recreational cannabis, one of the benefits of having a medical marijuana (MMJ) card is that the age restrictions are lower. With an MMJ card, registered medical marijuana patients can benefit from legal protection, regular access to quality medicinal cannabis, lower purchase costs due to sizeable tax savings, and higher possession limits.

Patients 18 and Over

patients 18 and over

At the current time, many states in the U.S. only permit residents to possess medical cannabis at a certain age. The 36 states that have enacted legal medical cannabis programs impose an age limit of 18 years for any patient hoping to obtain their medicine. Additionally, patients must have a qualifying condition.

Once you’ve checked your state’s requirements and regulations for MMJ, the next step is making an appointment with a licensed medical cannabis doctor. In many states with active medical cannabis markets, it is possible to organize a meeting with healthcare practitioners via telehealth. That way, you can complete the entire medical marijuana card application process from the comfort of your home, through a telehealth appointment and online application.

Things To Bring to Your Doctor Consultation

To reduce the chances of wasting your time on an unsuccessful visit to a medical cannabis doctor, it is essential that you prepare for the visit. A number of important documents need to be shown to the doctor during your appointment, including proof of identification in the form of a birth certificate, valid state driver’s license, valid state identification card, or military-issued ID card. Some of these forms can also be used to provide proof of residency. Documents such as bank statements and utility bills will also suffice.

Aside from presenting a suitable form of identification, medical marijuana card applicants ought to gather any necessary medical documentation to prove they are eligible for a medical cannabis prescription. Examples include:

  • Up-to-date medical records
  • Current prescriptions (if any)
  • Test and scan results (if applicable)

In the event of a successful medical marijuana patient application, payment will be required. Check, credit card, online payments, and money orders are usually accepted for state-issued cards.

Common Qualifying Medical Conditions  

So long as a doctor is licensed to perform professional duties in a state that has legalized medical cannabis, he or she can write a recommendation for new patients. Nonetheless, only once the doctor has diagnosed a patient with one of the listed illnesses can they write a recommendation.

Always read up on cannabis laws in your home state before trying to get a written recommendation. Depending on the state in which you reside, the list of qualifying conditions will differ. The following are some of the most common qualifying conditions for medical cannabis:

Patients Under 18 

minor patients

Only after alternative treatment methods have been tried and exhausted can someone under the age of 18 apply for an MMJ card. Once again, the requirements vary by state. However, a child who fulfills the eligibility criteria in their state of residence can apply to use the plant in its medicinal form.

Cannabis’ Impact on Cognitive Development During Puberty

Cannabis is the second most commonly used intoxicant in adolescent communities. The subject of whether or not cannabis causes negative cognitive influences on younger consumers is still up for debate, and such concerns have resulted in legal states imposing age restrictions on MMJ card applicants.

Despite the fact that the plant has been shown to improve health and quality of life in adult patients with widespread medical conditions and diseases, questions linger about the impact of the psychoactive component tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) on developing brains. This is because unlike adults, teens have immature brains and endocannabinoid systems that could react to cannabinoids differently than those in full-grown adults.

Few long-term studies have been conducted on teens using cannabis, but those that exist have very mixed findings. One study conducted at the Harvard Center for Addiction Medicine found through MRIs that 18- to 25-year-olds who smoked marijuana at least once per week had changes in their brain regions associated with addiction. However, a replication of the study at the University of Colorado Boulder controlled for alcohol intake and found no physical changes in the brains of young adult smokers.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), “the case against marijuana isn’t closed.” While researchers are still exploring the effects of THC on developing brains, most agree that cannabidiol (CBD) remains a safe option for minors since it does not alter the mind.

How Minor Patients Can Get a Medical Marijuana Card 

In some states, a minor can only get a medical cannabis card if they have obtained the approval of a pediatrician, primary care physician (PCP), and a legal parent or guardian. Additionally, underage individuals should be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian at their MMJ doctor consultation. Though the application process is similar, minor patients need to communicate to their health care provider that they are applying with a certified caregiver.

Upon meeting their state’s requirements, minors can register online via telemedicine to consult with a licensed physician. Post-examination, the physician will either reject the application or award the applicant with a medical cannabis recommendation or physician certification form. Additionally, all recipients must register with the state Department of Health’s MMJ program by filling out the minor application to get their registry card.

Minors are also required to have a qualified caregiver who maintains important responsibilities in attending to their wellbeing. The majority of states require that registered caregivers be at least 21 years old, but caregivers do not have to be related to the minor. Certain states request that a Caregiver Core Certification Course is completed before filling out the caregiver application.

MMJ Caregiver Age Requirements by State 

To qualify as a caregiver, a person should be:

  • Alabama – 21 years of age or older (the commission may also limit the number of assisted patients)
  • Alaska – 21 or older and never have been convicted of a controlled substance
  • Arizona – 18 or older and meet the ADHS requirements
  • Arkansas – 21 or older, a state resident, and not have been convicted of an excluded felony offense
  • California – 18 or older and meet the requirements set by the California Compassionate Use Act
  • Colorado – 18 or older and not licensed as a medical cannabis business
  • Connecticut – 18 or older and not the patient’s physician
  • Delaware – 18 or older and must not assist any more than five qualifying patients
  • Florida – 18 or older and a Florida resident
  • Georgia – 21 or older
  • Hawaii – 18 or older
  • Idaho – 21 or older and never have been convicted of a drug offense
  • Illinois – 21 or older and an Illinois resident
  • Louisiana – 21 or older and a Louisiana resident
  • Maine – 21 or older and meet the standard application requirements
  • Maryland – 21 or older and registered with the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission
  • Massachusetts – 21 or older and have a government-issued ID
  • Michigan21 or older and cannot be a convicted felon
  • Minnesota – 21 or older
  • Mississippi – 21 or older and serve no more than 10 qualifying patients
  • Missouri – 21 or older and should not have more than three patients
  • Montana – 21 or older
  • Nevada – 18 or older
  • New Hampshire – 21 or older and should not have more than five registered patients
  • New Jersey – 18 or older and cannot serve more than one patient at any given time
  • New Mexico – 18 or older
  • New York – 21 or older and cannot serve more than five certified patients
  • North Dakota – 21 or older and cannot assist more than five patients
  • Ohio – 21 or older and cannot have more than two registered patients
  • Oklahoma – 21 or older, an Oklahoma resident, and cannot have been convicted of a drug felony
  • Oregon – 21 or older
  • Rhode Island – 21 or older
  • Utah – 21 or older and not a convicted felon
  • Vermont – 21 or older and meet the eligibility criteria
  • Virginia – 21 or older
  • Pennsylvania – 21 or older and cannot have more than five patients
  • Washington – 21 or older and cannot assist more than one patient

As more research explores the safety and efficacy of medical cannabis, particularly for minors, we will likely see more laws at the state and federal levels that grant patient access. Until this time, refer to your local state medical marijuana program and consult a trusted company like Veriheal that specializes in MMJ.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the youngest age for medical marijuana?

Many states require patients to be at least 18 or 21 years of age to apply for a medical marijuana card. However, in most states, patients younger than 18 can apply with a certified caregiver.

What age is too early for marijuana?

Minor patients can apply for medical marijuana with a certified caregiver. However, The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) suggests that marijuana use before age 18 is a critical risk period that is associated with future dependence and abuse

Who can prescribe medical marijuana?

Only healthcare providers certified with your state can prescribe medical cannabis. Veriheal can help you find a medical marijuana doctor in your area.

This article was originally published in 2022 and most recently updated March 2024.

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