What Is an MMJ Caregiver in Pennsylvania?

According to PA law, a caregiver in the medical marijuana program is defined as an individual 21 years of age or older, who is:

  • Designated by a patient;
  • A parent, legal guardian, or spouse of a patient that is under 18; or
  • Designated to be a caregiver by a parent, legal guardian, or spouse.

All registering caregivers must undergo a criminal background check. Any criminal record will be reviewed before being approved.

Legal definition aside, a “caregiver” is not as official as it sounds. In this case, the role and meaning of “caregiver” is as open to interpretation as “patient” is. For example, a caregiver may be relative to a patient, who, in addition to supporting them in other ways, picks up the patient’s medical cannabis from the dispensary. On the other hand, it could be someone the patient finds in the system who has flagged themselves as available to home-bound patients who need someone to fetch their MMJ. Could be a kind stranger, could be a close relative; it’s up to the patient.

The primary reason to have registered caregivers is to ensure that all approved patients have access to their medical cannabis medicine. 

Who Can Be a Caregiver?

A caregiver can be a friend, a relative, or someone a patient has never met before. They can be an at-home nurse or caregiver or the neighbor next door. As long as they meet the qualifications for either adult or minor patients, complete the registration steps successfully, and are approved, anyone a patient designates is eligible. 

See the steps to registering as a caregiver below to learn about registering for adults vs. minors.    

Why Be a Caregiver?

Whether an MMJ patient is dependent on others full time for help or might just need a hand on a bad day, it’s a good idea for a patient to have one or two other protected people who can assist them with their cannabis medicine.

Patients can have up to two caregivers. It’s great to have options for help, especially when friends and families might have busy lives. Caregivers can serve up to five patients.

Furthermore, caregivers are essential for patients that are minors, adult patients that are homebound, and adult patients that benefit from assistance, such as nonverbal patients or ones that are unable to make their own medical decisions.

In these cases, the caregiver will need to register on behalf of the patient. In some of these instances, although the patient will be registered by the caregiver, they will not need to purchase an ID card, because they will not be entering a dispensary. For details on how to register various patients according to situation, see the steps to becoming a caregiver in the next section. 

Steps to Becoming a Caregiver 

Step 1 — Register on the Website

In order to register, you will need to create a username and password to set up your caregiver profile, where you will be able find your caregiver ID number and update your personal information in the future.

Usernames and passwords are case-sensitive. You will also need your PA driver’s license or state-issued ID card. Enter all information exactly as it appears on your ID. Note: The system only allows for a middle initial, so if your middle name is spelled out on your ID, simply enter your middle initial. 

When registering on the PA Department of Health website, the caregiver will need to select a registering option. These include:

  • Adult patient caregiver registration — For when you are registering to be a caregiver for an adult patient that is already in the system. Use their name, date of birth, and patient ID number when you register.
  • Caregiver registering for an existing patient — For when you are registering to be a caregiver for a patient who is already in the system but will not visit a dispensary. The patient will not register separately, nor will they receive an ID card. You will enter their name, date of birth, and patient ID number when you register.
  • Caregiver registering for a new patient — For when you are registering to be a caregiver for a patient who is not yet in the system and will not be visiting a dispensary. The patient will not register separately, nor will they receive an ID card. You will need to enter their name, date of birth, address, and telephone number when you register.
  • DOH-approved caregiver registration When you register under this category, you are allowing the DOH to share your contact information with patients in the area that need a caregiver. 

Minors under the age 18 must be registered by a caregiver. This caregiver must be a parent, legal guardian, or spouse. A caregiver can also be appointed as a third-party caregiver by a parent, legal guardian, or spouse. In the third-party caregiver case, they must fill out a form found in the “Profile Settings” of the caregiver profile. 

Step 2 — Undergo a Criminal Background Check

All caregivers must complete a criminal background check, which will be performed by the government’s authorized vendor. This will include an appointment where the caregiver will be fingerprinted. Any criminal record will be reviewed before you are approved as a caregiver. If you have been convicted of a criminal offense involving the sale or possession of drugs in the last five years, you cannot be approved. 

Step 3 — Wait for Confirmation Email

You will receive an email informing you about the outcome of your background check. This can take 4-6 weeks from the time of your fingerprinting. 

Step 4 — Pay for Your ID Card

Once approved, you will pay $50 for your caregiver ID card by logging into your account and clicking on the “Make Payment” tab. 

Once you are in the system, additional adult patients can designate you as a caregiver by going into their account and clicking on the “Manage Caregivers” tab. 

 

Elevate Holistics

Elevate is an online clinic offering certifications with compassionate registered cannabis doctors. Medical cannabis patients can book same-day appointments and get certified from the convenience of their home. In addition, we are a medical cannabis resource that partners with other industry experts to help make MMJ as easy and accessible as possible.