If I Get a Card, Will I be on a List?
Many people who qualify for medical marijuana recommendations choose not to pursue treatment because they fear they will end up on a "master list" of marijuana patients. Thankfully, this list doesn't exist. There is no consolidated database the DEA can use to conduct raids or employers can use to conduct background checks. Your patient status will remain confidential.
The record of your medical marijuana evaluation is protected under federal laws through HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), just like documents at any other doctor’s office. Releasing medical records requires patient permission, and doctor-patient confidentiality extends to the police, DMV, and employers. Therefore, your evaluation will stay private.
Additionally, doctors retain these records separately and securely. Often, these records can be accessed online (and legally the site must be HIPAA compliant) but there is no consolidated verification site. That's why you have to go to different websites for different doctors' offices (or call the office by phone) to verify. Check a medical marijuana recommendation and you should see either a specific phone number or specific website where you can verify. Then, try verifying the recommendation on the site for a random doctor - it doesn't work.
With a recommendation, you can receive medical marijuana through a collective, often called a dispensary. To register as a member, you will need to provide your recommendation and an ID. You will also need to complete a registration form. California law requires collectives to protect all of this information, just like any business would. Although the DEA has raided dispensaries, a patient has never been arrested as a result of these records. Simply put, you should not be worried about joining a collective.
The bottom line is that there isn’t any master list of medical marijuana patients. Receiving a medical marijuana recommendation puts you on the right side of the law—without exposing you to additional risk.