The majority of U.S. states now offer some form of access to medical marijuana for patients that have been diagnosed with a qualifying condition by an approved physician. Each state has its own system that governs the use of medical marijuana and its own unique application process. But before you start your application, there are 6 important things any patient or caregiver should know to avoid wasting time, money, or even being denied a Medical Marijuana Card.
1. Before you schedule a visit with your physician, make sure they are eligible
To be able to prescribe medical marijuana most states require physicians to meet 3 criteria to be able to prescribe medical marijuana. They must:
- Hold a qualified degree. Most states accept a Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO), but in some cases a state will also accept certain types of nurses and neurologists
- Be licensed in the state where they are practicing
- Be registered with their state’s medical marijuana program
Once you have verified that your physician holds an eligible degree and a license to practice in your state the next step is to find out whether your physician is registered with the state medical marijuana program. Only physicians who have been certified by the state program are allowed to prescribe medical marijuana.
By researching this information before you make an appointment you’ll avoid wasting time and money on a visit to a physician who is unable to make medical marijuana recommendations. Be sure to visit your state’s medical marijuana website to find detailed information on what types of medical licenses and degrees they require. Some sites also offer a list of approved physicians.
2. If your condition doesn’t appear on the Qualifying Medical Conditions list, make use of your legal rights
There are many severe medical conditions that do not appear on the list of Qualifying Medical Conditions. If you have been diagnosed with a condition that isn’t listed, there is still an opportunity to have your condition recognized. Nearly every medical marijuana program has a system for adding new conditions to the list of Qualifying Medical Conditions. The exact method for adding a new condition varies from state to state but the general process is as follows:
- Consult your physician and ask whether they think your condition is a good candidate to be added to the list
- With your physician’s support, submit a petition to your state’s medical marijuana program
- The program will have a panel of physicians who meet at regular intervals to review all of the petitions
- If the panel decides the condition warrants the use of medical marijuana, it will be added to the list
3. Understand the legal difference between Use, Possession, Cultivation, and Purchase
Even though a majority of states have a legal way for qualifying patients to use medical marijuana, not every state allows Possession, Cultivation, or Purchasing:
- Possession is the ability to hold a specific quantity of a substance on your person
- Cultivation is the ability for a patient or a business to grow marijuana plants
- Purchasing is the ability for marijuana plants or products to be sold to a consumer
- Use is the ability to consume a physician-recommended quantity of marijuana
It’s important to pay close attention to the language used on the application forms and on your state’s medical marijuana program website.
There are some states where it is legal to consume THC Cannabidiol under the guidance of a physician but it is not legal to possess, cultivate or purchase it. For example: a patient can be granted a medical marijuana card, but because it is illegal to cultivate, sell, or transport marijuana across state lines the patient has no legal way to access their prescribed medication, even though they are legally able to possess it. This is an unusual situation but it can happen in a handful of states where there are no state-certified cultivators, manufacturers or distributors.
Check out our Guide for Businesses to find out about the different types of Marijuana Businesses and how to become licensed in your state.
4. There may be financial assistance for low-income patients
Many states offer reduced application fees or fee waivers to patients who can prove they meet the eligibility requirements. The patient will be asked to submit documentation of their Gross Annual Household Income. If it falls below the level set by that state, financial assistance programs become available. There are even a few states that have no medical marijuana card application fees at all, but they are in the minority.
5. If you are unable to obtain medical marijuana in your state, there are alternatives
For some patients it may be difficult or impossible to acquire medical marijuana legally within their state of residence. But that doesn’t mean they are completely out of luck. A few states like Maryland and Maine offer Visitor programs to patients visiting from another state. However the visiting patient is still required to provide documentation showing they are eligible to participate in the program, and they must still find an approved physician in the state where they are being treated.
6. Minors may require a second opinion from a physician, and both parents/guardians may be required to provide consent
While most states only require one physician to recommend the use of medical marijuana to a patient under the age of 18, there are a few exceptions where the state requires a second opinion from a different physician. Again, both physicians must be properly licensed, hold an eligible degree, and be certified by the state medical marijuana program. Both physicians must also come to the conclusion that the patient will benefit from the use of medical marijuana. In some rare cases, a state will have a different, usually shorter list of Qualifying Medical Conditions exclusively for minors, so be sure that the patient’s diagnosis fits the appropriate list.
Similarly, most states only require one parent or guardian to apply to be a Designated Caregiver. But in some cases both parents are required to sign the patient’s application and consent to the use of medical marijuana. If the second parent or guardian lives out-of-state they may still be required to submit documentation.
If you found this article helpful please let us know, leave us a comment or share it with the world. And visit our State Guide for more information on getting a Medical Marijuana Card in your State. You’ll find a list of qualifying medical conditions and steps to successfully submit an application.