Can a Felon Get a Medical Marijuana Card?

The majority of the country is on the side of legalizing medical marijuana. Presently, thirty three states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana. Many of the remaining states are set to legalize medicinal cannabis as well. The majority of the country is in favor of a thriving legal cannabis industry.  It is illegal at the federal level.

This blog will cover whether a felon can get a medical marijuana card.

  • How Do You Get a Medical Marijuana Card?
  • What and How  Illnesses Qualify
  • Some State-by-State Comparisons
  • Seeking Remedies Through The Court System

How Do You Get a Medical Marijuana Card?

All of the states except for New Mexico have their own set of complex steps to get a medical marijuana card. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the laws of your state. Being in possession of marijuana in a state where it is illegal can land you in jail. You might need to get an attorney. If so, be candid about your situation.

First of all, you must see a state-approved medical specialist or physician where you can establish residency. The keyword here is residency, meaning you need a home address. You also need a government issued ID.

The Housing Issue

For a felon, getting housing is one of the major roadblocks to reentry back into society. Your chances of homelessness are high which can increase your risk for re-incarceration.

You might end up in a halfway house or sleeping on the sofa of a family member. A halfway house may help pave the way to a reentry program. Trying to re-establish ties with family can be a not-so-good thing. Sometimes it’s family that got you doing a bit in the first place.

Landlords are hesitant to give you a second chance. They can be held liable if anything goes wrong.

You must compete for the same limited resources as citizens who don’t have a criminal record. Some states allow Section 8 HUD housing for felons. It depends on the nature of the crime you committed. If the crime was extremely violent you would not qualify for Section 8. HUD housing can take years to become available so apply as soon as possible. You can get up to 70% off your housing.

Catholic Charities USA assists ex-offenders in getting housing. Many states run their own housing programs. For instance, Washington State has a Reentry Housing Pilot Program(RHPP). This program is for high-risk/high-need felons who are homeless.

Both Goodwill and the Salvation Army offer reentry programs. These organizations, and many like them, can be found in every state. Reentry programs can help connect you with the resources like housing and family reunification.

What  and How Illnesses Qualify

You may have suffered a grave disease or illness during your incarceration and afterwards. There might be a legal path for you to get a medical marijuana card and resolve some of your ailments.

For your state you need to learn what the qualifying illness are. You have to make a medical appointment and state which qualifying illness you have. Be sure to have medical records to demonstrate a history with your condition for the doctor.

In some cases, you may need to search for a certified physician who fully understands your health issue. She might be the only certified medical personnel willing to make your medical marijuana recommendation.

Medical marijuana is being used for everything from post-traumatic stress disorder to HIV/AIDS. Qualifying illnesses vary from state to state. For example, Connecticut covers sickle cell disease. But Arizona, which has some very liberal laws, does not. In New Jersey you can get medicinal cannabis for anxiety, but in New York that’s not the case.

A medical marijuana card is valid for a set amount of time, typically one year. After that time you will need to go through the same process all over. One exception, if you go to the same doctor you won’t have to haul all your medical records in again.

Some State-By-State Comparisons

The states are allowed to set up their own laws and regulations so they vary greatly. Louisiana has some of the strictest laws in the nation. By June of 2019, four years after the bill  was signed into law, only 15 doctors had applied. Doctors in Louisiana only get up to 100 patients. Your card is good for only 90 days, then you reapply all over again.

Illinois has some of the most expansive laws in the nation and covers a long list of qualified illnesses. In Illinois you have to get a criminal background check for a medical marijuana recommendation(MMJ).

New Mexico has one of the sweetest deals. They have been legal since 2007 so they have had a long time to iron out a lot of the kinks. It’s a four page form with no criminal background check.

The state of Arizona has some of the most liberal laws in the country. In Arizona you actually get a prescription from a doctor—felons included. You may be able to get a medical marijuana even if you were convicted of any of the following:

  • A drug trafficker
  • Committed murder
  • You are on probation for a drug related offense

If you are denied a card because you are on probation you can appeal it in the courts.  And, you are likely to receive a decision in your favor. In Arizona, judges believe that patient care decisions should be left between the patient and the doctor.

Some states will allow you to get a card if you have committed a nonviolent crime. California, Oregon, and Colorado have legalized recreational marijuana. These states are also clearing the records of felons who would not have been convicted under the new laws.

More states are on the verge of enacting their own laws because the industry generates so much revenue. This will only increase the likelihood that more citizens who have served their time can have access to medicinal cannabis for their ailments, diseases, and chronic illnesses. But take note, if you are not honest on your application you can find yourself brought up on charges.

Seeking Remedies Through The Court System

There are legal actions you can take to clear your record or reverse a denial. If you have been denied access to medicinal cannabis you can appeal the decision in court.

But, the very best chance for your getting an MMJ  card is to have your record expunged. This means that your record is wiped clean as if you never committed the crime. You will be able to legally claim that you do not have a felony record. The exact process depends on the state where you live.

You might be eligible to get your case expunged or get it sealed. If you get your record expunged it is destroyed. Getting it sealed means that under special circumstances it can be reopened. For example, if you are under suspicion of having committed another crime your record could be unsealed. Typically a criminal defense attorney is required for all of these actions.

The role you play in all legal actions is important and required. You will need to demonstrate initiative—that you are an active member of society. This can be done by going to counseling, advancing in your education, and being employed.

Completing some type of re-entry program is extremely helpful toward self improvement.  It demonstrates that you are rehabilitated.

Once you go through the process of getting your record expunged or sealed you can legally apply for a job, complete a school admissions form, and sign a rental agreement. You may now be able to get a medical marijuana card.

Felons who have committed multiple felonies or rape can not get their records expunged.

The Turn Around in California

In California, under Proposition 64, inmates, parolees, and ex-convicts may be able to get their criminal records cleared. California’s marijuana laws are being applied retroactively. Persons convicted under the old laws can now get their records changed to the lesser convictions. Felons who committed drug related or violent offenses can not be issued a card.

In The Case of Florida

In Florida you can have your record expunged or sealed. However, state and federal law enforcement agencies will still have access to your records. Judges have access to your sealed records online.

If you are a defendant you might have to reveal your felony conviction. For example, if you are  trying to become a court appointed guardian.

Many employers will still have access to your sealed or expunged records.

In Florida, expunging or sealing a record does not update onto federal or private databases. Private companies can purchase the information from the counties and state.


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