Digital Medical Marijuana Cards: 7 Things You Need to Know

A woman in a lab coat standing in front of a hemp field

Arizona State’s medical marijuana (MMJ) identification cards are now digital.

This change, which took effect on December 1, 2019, means that all Arizona MMJ cardholders no longer need a printed MMJ ID when buying from a marijuana store in Chandler, Winslow, and other parts of Arizona. Instead, they can present the new digital version provided by the Arizona Department of Health Services (DHS) via email.

What else should you expect from this new digital system? How can you secure your new digital MMJ card if you haven’t done so yet? Here are a couple of things to know.

The new card has a digital bar code

The new digital MMJ cards contain a bar code for more efficient cardholder validation. The marijuana dispensary owner scans this bar code on their POS and immediately sees if your name is in the Medical Marijuana Verification System (MMV). The MMV is a database portal that makes for quick validation and submission of medical marijuana transactions.

It’s a good idea to print your digital MMJ ID

Digital cards are convenient and more difficult to lose or forget. You just download it to your mobile phone and access the PDF image anytime you need it.

Even so, it is best to keep a printout of your digital card in your wallet and glove compartment in case of emergencies. Phones can run out of battery, get lost, or be left behind. The older population may not be as comfortable with the digital ID card either. The DHS encourages printing the digital ID to be sure.

Arizona State will no longer send medical marijuana ID cards via postal mail

Beginning August 28, the DHS will only be issuing digital ID cards (via email). These will be sent to card applicants via the email they used to apply for an MMJ ID the very first time. The DHS will also send owners of printed cards a digital version of their ID via email. They don’t have to reapply or renew their cards until it’s about to expire.

Going digital will make MMJ card issuing more accurate

When a printed card is sent via postal mail, it’s possible to send it to the wrong address. Sending it to an email address lessens the probability of the card falling into the wrong person’s hands.

Printed cardholders must update inactive emails

Is your DHS user account email active? When you applied for an MMJ ID card for the first time, you created a user account at the DHS website using an email address. If this email address is no longer active or accessible to you, you need to update your user account information on the DHS website with a current email address. Do this immediately, so they can send you your digital card.

If your email is active, then you should have received a digital version by December 1. If you haven’t, get in touch with the DHS.

Getting a digital version of your MMJ ID will not extend its validity

According to Senate Bill 1494, which took effect on August 27, 2019, those who applied for an MMJ ID card on or after that date would receive the digital version valid for two years. The same goes for those applying for a renewal or replacement. This also means that the cost was cut in half because the $150 fee that used to be valid for one year is now good for two years.

If you did not apply for a new ID card but only received a digital version of your older card that’s still valid, your card’s expiration date remains the same.

How long does it take to apply for a digital MMJ ID card?

In the old system, processing and approval of applications may take as short as three days or as long as two weeks. After approval, you must wait for about three to 10 business days to receive the card in your mail. Since the new cards can be sent via email, this reduces the waiting time by the number of days it takes to send a physical card to your postal address.

The DHS used to print around 1,000 cards each day. It shifted to digital cards to save on printing costs and channel that savings to the development of the digital ID system and a patient portal for its clients.