In this guide, we’ll define the role of a caregiver in the medical cannabis industry, including their responsibilities and what they are not allowed to do.
We’ll also outline the general restrictions on who can become a caregiver before considering the main differences between states concerning legal cannabis caregiver requirements.
What is a medical marijuana caregiver?
Medical marijuana patients are often in a situation where they rely on a third party to access and use cannabis as part of their treatment.
This role is carried out by a “caregiver.”
The caregiver is someone who has been assigned responsibility to obtain and provide medical marijuana to a registered patient for therapeutic purposes.
Typically, they do this because the patient is unable to acquire medical marijuana themselves, either because they are a minor or they are not well enough to leave their home.
The precise functions carried out by a caregiver vary from state to state. It’s important, therefore, to become familiar with the specific medical cannabis laws of your state.
In general, a medical cannabis caregiver has the following responsibilities:
- Unless the patient lives in a state that permits adult-use marijuana, the caregiver must ensure the patient has a valid medical cannabis card and that this is renewed before its expiration date.
- In most states, a medical cannabis caregiver is nominated by the patient. The caregiver may have responsibility for multiple patients but, in general, the patient will have only one caregiver. Most states put a limit on the number of patients a designated caregiver can have responsibility for.
- The caregiver must be able to acquire marijuana legally, either by growing it at a private residence or purchasing it from a licensed dispensary.
- The caregiver will often bring the patient to and from doctor’s appointments and medical cannabis dispensaries, and transport marijuana in their vehicle.
- The caregiver is often responsible for dosing and administering medical marijuana to the patient. Permitted methods vary from state to state. In some states, for instance, smokable forms of cannabis are not allowed.
- Designated caregivers must comply with the application process as outlined by the agency responsible for regulating medical marijuana in the state.
What you cannot do as a caregiver
Again, this varies from state to state. In particular, it is important for caregivers to know whether there are limits on the number of patients you can be responsible for.
Other general points concerning what you cannot do as a caregiver include:
- Medical marijuana caregivers are not permitted to consume their patient’s cannabis products. Indeed, they cannot consume any marijuana unless they have a medical marijuana card or live in a state where adult-use is permitted.
- Caregivers are not permitted to sell or give away any of the cannabis they grow or purchase on behalf of their patient.
- Medical cannabis caregivers also need to ensure they do not transport marijuana over state lines. It is not permitted, for instance, to purchase medical marijuana in a neighboring state and then bring it to your patient.
How to get a caregiver card
Cannabis remains federally illegal for any purpose. This means medical marijuana rules and regulations vary from state to state, including the process by which a caregiver is legally designated.
In general though, a caregiver must be a US citizen and resident in the state where they are seeking authorization to be a medical marijuana caregiver.
How caregiver requirements differ between states
There are nuances between states as to who can become a caregiver and what they are allowed to do..
More than half of the states in the country have procedures in place to approve medical marijuana caregivers, and each has its own particularities.
The differences between states with regards to medical marijuana caregiver requirements include:
- Whether the state does or does not allow a registered medical marijuana patient to designate a caregiver.
- How long a caregiver’s registration remains valid.
- How many caregivers a patient can have.
- How many patients a caregiver can have.
- Whether or not there are exceptions to patient or caregiver limits depending on specific circumstances. For instance, if the caregiver works in a hospice or if the patient resides in one.
- Minimum age requirements vary from 21 in some states to 18 in others.
- Medical marijuana possession limits vary considerably from one ounce to a 90 day supply.
- Whether or not the caregiver is allowed to grow cannabis and, if so, how much they are permitted to cultivate.
- Some states have limitations in place concerning the transportation of medical marijuana by caregivers. For instance, it must be stored in a sealed container beyond the reach of the driver.
- Some states do not allow for caregivers with certain kinds of criminal convictions, including for marijuana possession.
- Some states and jurisdictions recognize out-of-state medical marijuana caregiver registrations, while others do not.
- Some states, including Nevada and Ohio, do not allow caregivers to be medical marijuana patients themselves.