More than 30 states allow patients access to medicinal cannabis, but navigating through some of the red tape can be a bit mind boggling.
Marijuana is becoming more popular than sliced bread throughout the United States. Some of the latest polls show that most of the country supports the idea of legalizing the leaf in a manner similar to alcohol and tobacco. But even more of the population — closer to 90 percent — are in favor of Americans having the right to use this substance for medicinal purposes.
It is essential to understand that there is not yet any kind of blanket medical marijuana program in the United States for people wanting a more natural therapy than what the medical industry typically provides. Marijuana is still illegal in the eyes of the federal government, so nothing about the cannabis plant is accepted, or more importantly, paid for as far as Uncle Sam is concerned. It is one of the reasons veterans are fighting so hard for medical marijuana access. None of the doctors employed with Veterans Affairs can presently help their patients get involved.
One of the biggest snags a patient encounters when it comes to getting medical marijuana is qualifying for participation. Every state is different. So, while in California, it might be easy for just about anyone with a headache or a sore toe to get permission to use the herb, that’s not necessarily the case in other states. Some places only allow patients with severe, debilitating conditions to use the program. But many are now starting to incorporate “chronic pain” into their list of qualifying conditions, making it easier for most patients to receive clearance. So before you talk to your doctor about using medical marijuana, it is first important to determine whether you qualify at all. Check with your state’s Department of Health for information on qualifying conditions.
Okay, so you’ve figured out that you qualify to use your state’s medical marijuana program. Now, you just have to get a doctor to sign off on it to get the ball rolling. However, this could prove challenging.
Most doctors will not even discuss medical marijuana with their patients for fear that any association may open them up to malpractice claims, trouble with federal drug agencies and a wealth of other unfortunate scenarios that could put them out of business. So that family doctor you see every year for a checkup or a flu shot, he or she is probably going to look at you like there are cockroaches crawling out of your ears if you ask them to provide you with a medical marijuana certification. And this is not the sort of thing that can be obtained by simply visiting an Urgent Care clinic.
It might be necessary to scour the internet to find a doctor willing to clear you for medical marijuana. Once again, this is easier to do in some states than others. Websites like marijuanadoctors.com can help point you in the right direction. But prepare to pay for the office visit out of pocket. Your health insurance is not going to cover you on anything marijuana-related.
Also, don’t expect the doctor to give you any real advice on strains, dosage and frequency of use. While there is plenty of anecdotal evidence showing that marijuana can help with certain conditions, the lack of research on the subject hasn’t given medical professionals any guidelines to follow. So if you feel like the doctor is guessing when answering your questions, that’s because they probably are. No doctor working today graduated medical school with training in marijuana.
In California, patients are free to use a dispensary as soon as they get their hands on a certification. In Illinois, however, they must first register online with the health department before taking the next step. Once they do, they can gain access to dispensaries on the printed receipt while they wait for their official documentation to arrive in the mail. So once again, it might be necessary to check with your state Department of Health for guidance on getting into a dispensary.
Most patients feel overwhelmed when they step inside a marijuana dispensary for the first time. Although the staff typically does its best to advise and educate patients about cannabis products as it pertains to a specific medical condition, the truth is these people have no clue. You will find a lot of the information coming from their lips is based off what they’ve read on the Internet or through personal experience or even reports from other patients. It’s not that they’re trying to scam people into spending hundreds of dollars on medical marijuana, which is also not covered under health insurance. These people really believe cannabis is the solution for most ailments.
But as we mentioned in a previous post, the patient must manage their expectations. It is mostly up to the patient to determine which products work best for them, find the right dosage, and incorporate this medicine into their lives. It is important, though, to tell your family doctor that you are using medical marijuana — they need these details to keep you on the proper care plan — but don’t expect them to provide you with any guidance on how to use it. You will be mostly on your own.