Qualifying Conditions for Medical Marijuana (2018)

Know your rights!
Nicole Richter / Updated on September 27, 2018

Qualifying Conditions Medical Marijuana

As of now, marijuana is still classed as a Schedule I drug and considered illegal under Federal criminal law. This means that those caught with marijuana can still receive hefty fines, and in some states, can even still serve jail time.

| “Regardless of individual state laws, ALL forms of cannabis are still illegal at the federal level.”

Despite marijuana being illegal on a Federal level, though, individual states have of course adopted different laws that allow patients to consume medical marijuana for a wide variety of diseases and conditions. Some states have taken it one step further, even, and have permitted the recreational use of weed. (Please note however that using marijuana is subject to not only the state you reside in, but also the county or township. In some cases, it may be even further defined by the city).

[Need a Medical Marijuana Card? Let us help by Starting Here.]
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Qualifying Conditions for Medical Marijuana: The Turning Point

2009 was a major turning point for the marijuana industry as President Barack Obama announced that the federal government would not seek to arrest or prosecute medical marijuana users and suppliers, as long as they conformed to state legal laws.

| “I don’t think [smoking marijuana] is more dangerous than alcohol…”

-President Barack Obama, January 2014

This newfound “leniency” led many states to give the green light as far as implementing a medical marijuana program, as they knew millions of dollars in potential state tax revenue loomed once a valid program – with licensed dispensaries – was up and running. Moreover, independent agencies within each state’s Department of Health were tasked with coming up with a list of qualifying medical conditions – an assignment that, if you can imagine, is no small task.

In this article, we’ve compiled a list of the most common medical conditions that are eligible for MMJ use in the United States. As you’ll see, most states have a pretty similar list, which makes sense considering that doctor recommendations are based on the availability of scientific research and clinical trials that show positive results on each condition.

There are additional qualifying conditions other than the ones listed below, and in fact, most states with an MMJ program allow conditions to be added under special circumstances and case-by-case bases. Therefore, if you suffer from a condition not stated below, we recommend contacting your state’s Department of Health to see if any exceptions can be made.

The Most Common Qualifying Conditions for Medical Marijuana in the U.S. (Update for 2019)

*[Please note that these are only the most common qualifying conditions for medical marijuana in the U.S. – not all states will include every condition listed below]. 

1) ADHD

ADD/ADHD is a condition associated with a wide range of symptoms, including:

  • Inattention
  • Hyperactivity
  • Impulsiveness

Over the years there hasn’t been much research on medical marijuana and ADHD, but several initial studies have provided evidence that cannabis may be able to be used as an effective treatment for this disorder.

From the National Center for Biotechnology Information:

| “Despite no clinical recommendations [existing] that support the beneficial effects of cannabis use for ADHD, online discussions indicate that cannabis is [indeed] considered therapeutic for ADHD.”

2) hiv / AIDS

Contrary to what most people think, AIDS is not a virus in itself but rather a set of symptoms that are caused by the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV. HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system and destroys helper-T cells (aka CD4 cells, a type of white blood cell), then clones itself inside the cells in order to replicate non-stop.

AIDS is the term used when a patient with HIV can no longer fight the infection due to a weakened immune system. This causes them to develop certain defining symptoms and illnesses, and is also the last stage of HIV, when the infection is very advanced.

From “Marijuana as Medicine? The Science Beyond the Controversy” (2000):

| “While cannabis is NOT known to reverse the actual effects of HIV, it is commonly used to help treat symptoms of the virus, including relief from nausea and vomiting, wasting syndrome, appetite loss, pain, and decreased mood.”

3) Anorexia

Anorexia divides into different types, with Anorexia and Anorexia Nervosa being the most common. It is a potentially a life-threatening eating disorder, and is often accompanied by a severe psychological disorder.

In general, anorexia:

  • Is a general loss of appetite or a loss of interest in food
  • Is a serious mental illness – patients do not necessarily lose interest in food, but intentionally restrict their food intake because of an irrational fear of being or becoming fat (anorexia nervosa)

As of now, Anorexia has no single cause but it does have several risk factors, including:

  • Having a tendency towards depression
  • Being overly worried about one’s weight and shape
  • Having had an anxiety disorder during childhood

| “Marijuana is known to help those that suffer from Anorexia, and it has been classed by some marijuana doctors as an effective treatment.”

4) Arthritis

Arthritis is of course very common, but it is unfortunately still a condition that is not very well understood – particularly rheumatoid arthritis. In fact, “arthritis” is a general term used to describe over 100 different types of conditions that are related to joint pain or joint disease.

People of all ages can have arthritis, and it is the leading cause of disability in America. Common symptoms of arthritis include:

  • Swelling in the joints
  • Joint pain and inflammation
  • Stiffness
  • Decreased the range of motion

DID YOU KNOW: Arthritis is the leading cause of employment disability in the U.S.?

In 2000, researchers found that marijuana contains anti-inflammatory compounds, as well as natural analgesics (pain relievers) which can make it a very beneficial arthritis treatment for a wide range of patients.

From a 2017 publication in Clinical and Experimental Rheumatology:

| “…preclinical data exists indicates that the use of cannabis should be taken seriously as a potential treatment of joint pain.”

5) Cachexia (wasting syndrome)

Cachexia is essentially a condition which denotes an excessive loss of weight. It most commonly happens due to depletion of adipose tissue and muscle mass in individuals suffering from a chronic disease such as cancer or HIV.

Cachexia is also known as “wasting syndrome,” and it is known for causing excessive muscle wasting, weakness, fatigue, and loss of appetite in patients. The word “cachexia” originates from the Greek terms -kakos, meaning “bad,” and -hexis, which means “condition.”

From the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN):

| “The NCCN guidelines cautiously mention cannabinoids as a breakthrough treatment for chemotherapy-induced nausea, [as well as] vomiting not responsive to other antiemetics…”

6) Cancer (and cancer treatments)

Cancer is classed as a group of diseases characterized by out-of-control cell growth. As of now, there are well over 100 different types of cancer, each being classified by the specific type of cell that it affects.

Cancer alters cellular growth and reproduction, and may cause lumps or masses of tissue (tumors) to form. If untreated, tumors can grow and interfere with the digestive, nervous, and circulatory systems, and may even release hormones that alter body function.

Research in mice and rats has proven that cannabinoids may inhibit tumor growth by:

  • Causing apoptosis (programmed cell death)
  • Blocking cell growth
  • Blocking the development of blood vessels needed by tumors to grow.

Other research on animal models has shown that cannabinoids may be able to kill cancer cells, which is why most states included cancer and cancer treatment within their list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana.

From Dr. D.I. Abrams (San Francisco General Hospital, Integrative Oncology) in a 2016 report for Current Oncology:

| “Cannabis and cannabinoids are useful in managing symptoms related to cancer and its treatment…”

7) Chronic pain

About 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain – pain that is defined as lasting longer than six months – on a daily basis. The most common sources of pain stem from:

  • Headaches
  • Joint pain
  • Acute/traumatic injury
  • Back pain
  • Tendinitis
  • Sinus pain
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome

Studies on chronic pain with both neuropathic and inflammatory origins have found marijuana to be an effective treatment, as cannabinoids are known to release endogenous opioids which moderate the pain response system. While some studies have suggested that cannabis is no more effective than codeine in controlling pain, the side effects of marijuana versus narcotic pain relievers show that marijuana is a much safer option to use.

From “Cannabis and Pain: A Clinical Review” (2017):

| “As more patients turn to cannabis for pain relief, there is a need for additional scientific evidence to evaluate this increase.”

8) Epilepsy / Seizures

Epilepsy is a group of neurological disorders characterized by intractable epileptic seizures, which are defined as episodes of uncontrollable electrical activity in the nervous system that can last from just a few seconds to several minutes.

Marijuana has anti-convulsant properties thanks in part to the presence of cannabidiol (CBD), a compound found at higher levels in hemp and some rare strains of marijuana. This makes cannabis an excellent treatment for epilepsy, as it helps to control spasms associated with the condition without providing any kind of psychoactive or intoxicating effects.

In fact, in June 2018 Epidiolex became the first-ever CBD-based drug to gain FDA approval for Dravet syndrome, which is a rare form of intractable epilepsy.

From a 2016 report in Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience:

| “The endocannabinoid system has a role in neuronal balance and ictal control … [and there] is clinical evidence of success in diminishing seizure frequencies with cannabis derivatives.”

9) Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a disease that affects and damages the eye’s optic nerve, as it tends to happen when pressure from intraocular fluid accumulates behind the retina.

Glaucoma is actually a leading cause of blindness in for people over 60 years old, and forces many thousands of patients each year to undergo optic surgery. Current research has shown that there are cannabinoid receptors within the eye, implying that the endocannabinoid system may have dictation over aqueous humoural outflow and production.

In other words, specific marijuana strains have been known to reduce intraocular pressure inside the eye, therefore suggesting a potential ability to slow the progression of the disease.

From “Marijuana as Medicine? The Science Beyond the Controversy” (2000):

| “Glaucoma ranks among the most frequently cited reasons for using medical marijuana, and is one of the [conditions] for which the federal government once granted permission for compassionate marijuana…”

10) PTSD

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, aka PTSD, is an anxiety-based disorder that may develop after exposure to a traumatizing event in which significant physical or emotional harm occurred.

These events may include violent personal assaults, natural or human-caused disasters, accidents, or military combat. Individuals that suffer from PTSD may:

Researchers have found that people with PTSD have lower levels of anandamide, which is an endogenous cannabinoid compound that works to regulate neurochemical balance within the central nervous system.

In fact, endogenous anandamide has been known to trigger the same receptors that are activated by THC (and other components of the marijuana), making PTSD a qualifying condition treatment for many states’ medical marijuana programs.

From “Medical Marijuana for PTSD: A Review of Clinical Effectiveness and Guidelines” (2017):

| “There is evidence from very low-quality studies that smoked marijuana, oral THC, and nabilone are efficacious in treating some symptoms of PTSD, particularly nightmares and sleep quality and quantity.”

[Related Article: 3 Ways to Get a MMJ Card Online — Within Minutes!]

What About Anxiety and Insomnia — Are They Qualifying Conditions?

Even though anxiety, depression, and insomnia are some of the most common uses of cannabis among recreational patients, very few states actually include them in their list of qualifying conditions. This is due mostly in part to their ambiguous diagnostic nature; in other words, it can be difficult for a doctor to objectively determine (either through blood testing, tissue sampling, etc) whether or not a patient suffers from anxiety, insomnia, etc.

And in fact, few people know that cannabis with high amounts of THC will actually induce or worsen anxiety, which often leads to enhanced insomnia or even bouts of paranoia. CBD oil is a non-psychoactive extract that is being used more and more for the treatment of anxiety, as it seemingly possesses all of the therapeutic properties of whole-plant cannabis, without producing any high.

| “CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabis extract that is increasingly being used for anxiety and insomnia, as it appears to possess the therapeutic properties of cannabis WITHOUT producing a high.”

Depression and anxiety

Depression and anxiety are serious and common medical illnesses that affect how we feel. They negatively affect the way we think and how we act, and can lead to serious medical implications over time if not adequately dealt with.

Fortunately, depression and anxiety are also both treatable, and an increasingly common treatment over the last few years has been cannabidiol, or CBD. Unlike anxiolytics or antidepressant medications that are associated with a broad range of serious side-effects, CBD is classed as a safer, more natural alternative solution.

From a 2014 report in CNS: Neurological Disorders and Drug Targets:

| “Cannabidiol (CBD) is a Cannabis sativa [extract] with great psychiatric potential, including uses as an antidepressant-like and anxiolytic-like compound.”

Insomnia

Insomnia is a sleep disorder that affects millions of people across the globe. It is normally divided into three types:

  • Transient Insomnia – Symptoms last from a few days to a couple of weeks.
  • Acute Insomnia – Symptoms persist for several weeks.
  • Chronic Insomnia – Can last for months, and sometimes years.

Insomnia is another neurochemical balance disorder that non-psychoactive CBD is increasingly being used for, due to its sedative therapeutic nature and the fact that it poses little side effects and no intoxicating cerebral changes.

From a 2017 publication in Current Psychiatry Reports:

| “Preliminary research into cannabis and insomnia suggests that CBD may have therapeutic potential for the treatment of insomnia…”

Final Thoughts: List of Qualifying Conditions for Medical Marijuana [2019 Update]

Unfortunately, while marijuana is still classed as illegal on a federal level, there is no one set of rules that dictates the exact healthcare conditions under which a patient is eligible to be treated with marijuana. Simply put, this means that each state has its own exact list of qualifying conditions.

Of course, the conditions listed above are general ones that are accepted in most states — if you suffer from an illness or medical condition that is NOT mentioned on the above list, your best bet would be to contact your local physician and/or your state’s Department of Health to better understand the exact qualifications.

[Need a Medical Marijuana Card? Let us help by Starting Here!]

Get your medical card

Qualifying Conditions for Medical Marijuana (2018)
September 27, 2018
4.8 44
44 comments
  1. Gabi Wenzelow
    Alabama

    I do have PTSD and Arthritis, but I notice Alabama is not even on the list for getting a medical card.

  2. benjamin louie
    renewal

    im still recovering from double pmneumonia and my body aches my bones ache and marijuana is better then pain pill to my perspective as well as my left side arm achesaswell does this stillqualify me for renewal?

  3. Richard

    Does being diagnosed as bi-polar/schitzo effective qualify for a mmj card?

  4. JON. V

    I have been diagnosed with severe anxiety and ptsd, also suffer from digeneritive disc disorder and insomnia. I live in Florida. What do i need to do so I won’t have to take pills, which the doctor doesn’t like prescribing anyhow.

  5. brad

    i have bipolar and it keeps me from holding a job and over my whole life no bipolar med has worked for more then 6-12 months at a time. but as of the the last 2 years the effectiveness of medications as gone down now they only work for about 2-3 months. i have found taking a hit of marijuana helps but here in oregon i can’t get a medical card cause bipolar doesn’t qualify me to get one. i been told to just to take different meds, well i only have one kidney and not alot of meds are open to me. i have no clue if it is even possible to fight to get a card or if it is worth it.

  6. Sara Fowler

    I live in Arizona, please suggest

  7. Wilma Cain

    For arthritis, marijuana is wonderful. Thank you so much!

  8. Jonathan S

    Wish anxiety was on this list!

  9. Theresa Willis

    CBD is an efficient strain for diabetes. It normalized my sugar level.

  10. Irene David

    Great article. Very informative.

  11. Thomas Groff

    Should be legal nationwide. There are so many people that suffer with simple anxiety and it could help with.

  12. Joyce B

    The process in AZ is so confusing, thanks for all the help

  13. James Mayle

    These are just a few. There are many more per state, but this does sum up the major ones.

  14. Thomas T

    Does social anxiety qualify?

  15. Jill Elis

    Hope to see more conditions on this list and more states legalized.

  16. Robert Brooks

    I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you guys for all the information. This article was quite informative and the additional information you gave was priceless. Thanks for helping me with the process. Finally got approved!

  17. Rebecca Sampson

    Recently got my card. Thank the lord that PA has changed their rules

  18. Liz Machen

    Very well written and educational article about marijuana. It has made my life stress free by relieving me of cancer, life-threatening disease. I am thankful!

  19. Peter P

    Thanks for the info!

  20. Megan Delgado

    Very well explained. I am glad to hear that cancer is on the list

  21. Paul Faber

    my psychiatrist won’t put in the information needed for me to get a card so therefore
    I am suffering with depression. I hope you could help me.

    Thank you.

    Paul Faber
    Brunswick, GA 31523

    1. Bob

      Yeah blame your doctor for your depression. You sound like such a liberal democrat.

  22. George Coppersmith

    How can Marijuana still be considered schedule 1 schedule 1 means there’s no medical use for it but marijuana has a lot of medical uses

  23. Jimmy the weed

    This is so aggravating that pot is on schedule 1 or dangerous drugs as it’s not even addictive or harmful.

  24. Bud LePlante

    I was wondering why all these people are asking you these easily answerable questions if they would just take the time to read the full article. It’s like 2 mins lung people cmon lol obviously the author doesn’t know all the answers lol.

  25. Chris kusel

    I have frequent insomnia and frequent headaches. The insomniaxcan last for days and usually leads to the headaches, which are migraine like. I live in NY where medical was recently approved. I was wondering if I qualify?

    1. Adam

      Hi Chris, check out this article https://www.marijuanabreak.com/how-to-get-a-medical-marijuana-card-in-new-york/

  26. James

    I suffer from a rare birth defect call Arnold Chiari Malformation type 1. I don’t want to bore you with all the details and qualifying categories this puts me in. My question is that is it possible to get a in a state where it is not legal yet? Do I have to travel to legal state be seen by Dr to get card? And if so can they ship meds to me or do I have to travel back to the state that issued the card to pick up?

    1. Adam

      James. Unfortunately if you live in a state that it is illegal your options are limited. You can’t travel to a different state, unless you go to a recreational state. But you can’t bring the weed back.

  27. Floyd Harris

    I suffer from severe Epilepsy and have daily seizures,I am on several different AED’S which has damaged my organs and has made me partially blind!!When I smoke marijuana it almost completely stops the seizures for a week or so,I just don’t know how to go about getting a prescription for medical use in NY??

    1. Adam

      Check the links at the end of the article

    2. carl

      on epilepsy – therapeutic mechanisms are now understood sufficiently for our endo-cannabinoid system and cbd’s used by it, produced by our own bodies and, by cbd’s of cannabis sativa..
      my temproal lobe grand mal epilepsy was cured, over time, using home grown style cannabis..
      with approval of my gp and knowledge of my neurologist.. ie, around 25 yrs ago..

      on cancer – similarly, mechanisms are now understood of various specific ways cannabis interacts with our endo-cannabinoid syste in causing cancer cell apoptosis [natural cell death sequence] and other effects including restricting availability of nutrients etc to cancer cells,, supporting other cancer therapies..

      long list of diseases and disorders part of states medicinal cannabis laws are based on reality..
      scheduling cannabis as sch 1 is not,, based on realities of therapeutic benefits..
      cannabis entering modern laws as a sch 1 highly addictive narcotic supertoxin as for heroin etc,
      was and is wrong, in error, based originally on laymens, observations of asian opium dens..

      up until that time cannabis was part of usa pharmacopia and also worldwide use including for thousands of years in unrelated societies.. cannabis is not, narcotic.. not, a drug of addiction..
      with no fatal dosage.. without any deaths from cannabis alone, ever..

      i used [illegal] cannabis to cure my tmgm epilepsy.. altho neurologist prognosis ‘instutionalised by 55’,
      today i am almost 70, fit, healthy and disease free.. also very rarely smoke cannabis [too expensive]..
      recommend epileptics or cancer suffers or any disease qualifying for medical cannabis in many states
      make the move to one of these states.. it is not, worth it,, to have your life and potentials ruined by epilepsy [or cancer and so on].. you must decide yourself, for your self, your own destiny here..

  28. eva register

    I have 4 of the problem you have listed how do I see if I qualify

    1. Adam

      Depends on the state. Where do you live?

  29. LaRonna Davis

    I have seizures, depression. Rheumatoid and ostio authritis, insomnia, chronic pain, fibromyalgia, and chronic pancreatitis.. and no appetite food is my enemy and degenerative disc disease…but in ALABAMA I’m always getting in trouble with my DR’S because it’s not legal here but I smoke its the only thing that helps me all the MEDS they give me cause further organ damage and I have developed more health problems from taking them any information on how I could submit my medical records to get a PRESCRIPTION card for medical marijuana desperate in ALABAMA….please help

    1. Adam

      LaRonna, we wish we could help but like you said it is illegal where you live. You need a good Dr

  30. jose daniel

    is good to treat high blood pressure too right??

    1. Marijuanabreak

      Yes, but you should consult with your doctor

  31. Crystal

    Can Ms patients get it if they can’t move nothing from the neck down

    1. Adam

      It really depends where you live. The list here are general conditions, but each state has it’s own criteria

  32. Patricia

    I suffer from anxiety and depression where can i go to begin the process would they work with medic aide

    1. Adam

      Hi patricia, Not sure if they will work with medic aide, also depends where you live

  33. Hector SANTIAGO

    Can it be used to treat bipolar..

    1. Adam

      You would have to consult with your doctor on that…

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