Today, it is possible to attain medical or recreational marijuana in 30 states plus D.C. In 21 of these states, you need a medical marijuana (MMJ) card if you wish to benefit from the potential healing properties of the herb. However, even if you live in a state such as Colorado or California, where it is legal recreationally, there are benefits to getting an MMJ card.
In Colorado, for example, you avoid excise and retail marijuana tax when purchasing medical marijuana as opposed to recreational, so your weed is considerably cheaper. If you’re a regular user, you should save hundreds of dollars a year, if not more. It is also a fact that medical dispensaries provide more potent marijuana than their recreational counterparts, and potency limits vary from state to state.
However, if you wish to benefit from medical marijuana, you’ll need to visit a licensed physician within your state and receive a MMJ recommendation. Both patient and doctor must agree that cannabis is an effective treatment option, and you must have an ‘approved’ condition. Once again, qualifying conditions vary depending on the state, so make sure you check your local laws.
It is also a fact that certain physicians are more ‘marijuana friendly’ than others, so we urge you to perform due diligence to ensure you’re not wasting your time with an anti-marijuana doctor. If you’re nervous about the process, relax! Read this guide to learn exactly what you need to say to gain approval. Remember, you’re entitled to an MMJ card, and, assuming you live in a state where medicinal marijuana is legal, you’re unlikely to get into trouble (unless Jeff Sessions is in the room with you!)
Incidentally, even though cannabis is federally illegal, asking your physician about the health benefits of weed is NOT against the law. The physician cannot report you to the police, and you will not be arrested for asking about medical marijuana. In Contant V. Walters(2002), the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled to protect the rights of patients and physicians to seek medical information about therapeutic weed.
Qualifying Medical Conditions
As we mentioned in the introduction, ‘qualifying’ conditions vary depending on the state you live in. For example, if you are a Massachusetts resident, the following conditions could qualify you for an MMJ card:
- Hepatitis C
- Crohn’s Disease
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Lou Gehrig’s Syndrome (ALS)
Other conditions which may also ensure you are eligible but aren’t specifically named in Massachusetts’ medical marijuana law include:
- Chronic pain
- Ulcerative Colitis
- Chronic insomnia
Schedule an Appointment & Get Your Medical Records Together
As a medical marijuana evaluation is mandatory in most states, you need to book an appointment with the physician and get ready. In general, the appointment will last up to 30 minutes, although some marijuana-friendly physicians may provide you with a recommendation in far less time.
Before you approach any physician about medical marijuana, do your homework on how medicinal cannabis could help your condition. For example, if you suffer from an inflammatory disease such as osteoarthritis, reflect on how the condition impacts your life and how cannabis could ease certain symptoms. Once you have a solid understanding of the benefits of weed, you’ll find it far easier to explain how it will help you.
Make sure you bring your medical records and list any injury, disability, and illness that could be treated by medical marijuana. You will also need to bring a Government ID such as a passport or driver’s license to prove that you’re a resident of the state (or a utility bill proving your residency). If you have medical documents such as X-rays, disability paperwork, or the results of an MRI scan, make sure you bring them as well.
I’m the Physician’s Office, What Do I Say?
First of all, it is important to relax and smile. Believe it or not, your attitude could make all the difference! Put yourself in the doctor’s shoes: Are you more likely to approve an MMJ card to someone who is jovial and pleasant, or a patient who is as surly as Brian Dennehy in a cop movie? Remember, the physician has no legal obligation to approve you.
Upon your arrival, you must complete a ‘patient intake form.’ In the case of online evaluations, which are becoming increasingly popular, you’ll probably have to complete a lot more paperwork before speaking with a doctor. Regardless of whether the interview is done using the wonders of technology via Skype, or in-person, the physician will review your condition and perhaps conduct a few examinations.
You can expect to be asked a variety of questions about your condition, lifestyle, general health, and other treatments you have tried. Unfortunately, it is likely that you’ll only receive approval if you’ve already tried other medications. Don’t be surprised if the physician offers to give you opioid painkillers and tells you to return in 30 days if they don’t work. At this stage, you can either play ball, or refuse and go to another physician.
Above all else, be transparent with the physician. Be honest when discussing the medical possibilities of cannabis, and if you’ve tried it before, let the doctor know. Some physicians are hesitant to recommend weed to new users. Also, if you believe a specific cannabis-derived product can help, mention it. Bear in mind that a significant proportion of medical professionals have little knowledge of marijuana’s potential healing capabilities.
Make Sure You Ask Questions
You have little chance of receiving approval if you stroll in, ask for weed, and offer little in the way of reasons. If you try that approach, the doctor will believe you are someone who only wants marijuana to get high. By asking questions, you show that you’ve researched the herb and are an individual who is taking the whole process seriously. Here are a few questions worth asking:
- Will cannabis have any dangerous interactions with any of my current medications?
- What activities should I avoid while using marijuana?
- Will cannabis cause current medications to be less effective?
- Are there any potential side effects I should be aware of?
- Is second hand smoke going to be a problem? (If you have children or pets)
- What are the healthcare costs associated with purchasing medical marijuana?
- Do you know of any medical studies on the effects of cannabis on patients with my condition?
- Where can I find accurate information about the medical effects of marijuana?
Although it depends on the physician, you normally receive an answer at the end of the evaluation. Even if you didn’t get what you’re looking for, make sure you say ‘thanks’; you never know when you’ll need to see the same doctor again!
If you don’t receive approval, don’t give up! If you truly believe that medical marijuana is the best treatment for your condition, schedule an appointment with another doctor.
What Do I Do If I Get Approved for a Medial Marijuana Card?
Congratulations! You are now free to try an alternative medicine, and perhaps break free of the yolk of opioids. As for the next step, it depends on where you live. In some states, you need to send the doctor’s recommendation and medical records to the relevant authority to receive your MMJ card. The process could take days or even weeks, and only then can you purchase medical marijuana from a dispensary.
If the evaluation happens online with a company such as NuggMD, it is possible to schedule a same-day consultation. Moreover, if you are approved, you will receive a downloadable recommendation which you can use instead of the MMJ card to purchase marijuana online. NuggMD even shows you where to purchase weed online! The card itself should be sent to you in a matter of days.
Final Thoughts on Obtaining a Medical Marijuana Card
In states where medical marijuana is legal, you need to receive approval for an MMJ card if you wish to use cannabis to treat your medical condition. Otherwise, you are breaking the law and risk a prison sentence and a huge fine. Even in states where you can purchase weed recreationally, it makes sense to obtain an MMJ card because it can save you a small fortune on taxes.
When you schedule an appointment, make sure you bring your medical records, ID, and a positive attitude. Show the physician that you understand the implications of using medical marijuana. If they sense that you are genuine and believe that weed can help treat your condition, there’s an excellent chance you will receive approval.