At the time of writing, there are medical or recreational marijuana programs in 33 states plus D.C. However, there are a few medical programs that haven’t been rolled out yet despite medicinal marijuana laws being passed in those states. For example, residents of Utah and West Virginia will have to wait at least a few months before applying for MMJ cards.
There are close to three million medical marijuana patients in the U.S. – although California accounts for over 40%! When applying for an MMJ card, you usually need to register with the state’s program, pay a fee, and then see a physician. During the consultation, the doctor will discuss your medical condition and decide if you are a good candidate for medicinal marijuana.
The list of qualifying conditions varies from state to state, and it is often a case where an eligible patient is turned down because they don’t know what to say during a consultation. In this article, we aim to educate you on the right things to say to get your medical marijuana card.
Starting the Conversation
Even though medical marijuana is now legal in a majority of states, there is still a sense of taboo which leads to awkwardness at the beginning of a consultation. Both you and the doctor know why you are there so cut to the chase and be transparent when discussing the drug. Be honest about why you feel weed could help and disclose any previous usage of the substance.
If you are in the office and don’t know what to say, break the ice by talking about another person you know that is using medicinal marijuana, and explain that it is working for them. Alternatively, state that you have read a book, watched a documentary, or researched weed online.
Don’t assume that the physician is up to date on the latest research, even if he has registered with the program. For a lot of doctors, providing medical weed is a lucrative option, although they risk losing their license and possibly even jail time if they knowingly recommend weed to someone who is not eligible.
You should ask the physician if he has attended any workshops or continuing education programs about cannabis recently. The likely answer is ‘no,’ but that doesn’t mean you won’t get a recommendation.
You need to assume that the physician is not well-versed in weed. If this is the case, his ingrained bias against marijuana may ensure that you don’t get the recommendation, unless you can prove that you have conducted your own research and know why you are requesting the herb. A knowledgeable physician will see right through any patient who is clearly only trying to get high.
Consider your medical condition and find research which shows how marijuana positively benefited others with your illness. If you have a condition such as chronic inflammatory disease, think about how it negatively impacts your life, and how cannabis could treat the symptoms that are causing you so much distress.
You are far more likely to get a recommendation if you came across as intelligent and informed about weed, its uses, and potential effects. It is also important to ask questions. Otherwise, you look like a person keen to get in, get the recommendation to get high, and leave… to get high.
Potential questions to ask include:
- What activities should I avoid while using cannabis?
- Will the drug have an impact on any other medication I am using?
- Does marijuana have dangerous interactions with any drug I am using?
- Is second-hand smoke likely to be an issue, or is it wise to vaporize the substance?
- Do you know of any reputable sources for good information on marijuana?
- What are the healthcare costs associated with medicinal cannabis?
- Are you aware of any other studies involving patients with my condition and medical marijuana?
Understand the Qualifying Conditions
Although the list of qualifying conditions varies according to the state marijuana program in question, the following medical issues are typically classified as a good enough reason to receive an MMJ card recommendation:
- Terminal Illness
- Severe pain or nausea
- Seizures, including those associated with epilepsy
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Crohn’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Hepatitis C
- Severe/persistent muscle spasms
- Multiple sclerosis
- Ulcerative colitis
There are several more, but we recommend checking out your state’s qualifying conditions. Physicians in certain states are given an element of leeway. In California for example, a patient with any chronic or persistent medical symptom that limits their capacity to conduct a major life activity may be eligible for an MMJ card.
We have heard of some cases where a medical marijuana patient was approved for a reason one might not expect. Here are a few of those:
- A cough
- Cocaine dependency
- Color blindness
- Post-concussion syndrome
- Amblyopic dyslexia
- Writer’s cramp
Outline Previous Attempts to Treat the Condition
Unfortunately, it is highly unlikely that a physician will immediately approve your application if you have not tried any other way of treating the condition in question. In this instance, it is likely that the doctor will provide you with a prescription for a more conventional form of medication such as opioids.
The range of treatment options depends on your condition. For instance, an individual with depression may be asked to see a therapist and use antidepressants before they are considered for MMJ card approval.
Know When to Walk Away
There will be instances where a doctor has no intention of providing a recommendation. Perhaps they don’t believe you have the condition, or else they don’t think weed is the best treatment option. They may even believe that you’re only seeking cannabis to get high. While it can be irritating, distressing, and expensive, it is far from being the end of the world.
As long as you live in a state where medical marijuana is legal, there will be dozens of physicians in your area to choose from. Perform a little research to see which ones are ‘weed-friendly,’ and you may save yourself some time and money.
Final Thoughts on Getting a Medical Marijuana Card
It is imperative that prospective medical marijuana patients are aware that asking a physician about the health benefits of weed is NOT illegal. The doctor won’t contact the police, and you won’t be charged with a criminal offense. We can thank the ruling on the Conant v. Walters case of 2002 for that freedom. At the time, Ninth Circuit Judge, Alex Kozinski, said that the right to receive information is as well protected by the First Amendment as the right to talk.
If you believe medical marijuana can help and that you have a qualifying condition, make sure you are well prepared for your evaluation. While some physicians are more lenient than others, don’t assume that your doctor has a positive attitude towards the herb.
Bring knowledge along with your medical records, and ask questions if you’re unsure about anything. Share any findings from research relating to your condition that you have found, and don’t come across as a desperate stoner! If you show that you are serious, and have tried conventional methods of treatment without success, you have a good chance of being recommended for an MMJ card.