Right now, 30 states and the District of Columbia allow for the treatment of at least one illness with medical marijuana. And the stigma associated with using marijuana to treat major illnesses such as cancer, epilepsy, or seizures has largely faded. You may be wondering how to get a cannabis prescription or who to get one from. Can a "normal" doctor prescribe medical marijuana? Or could you get a cannabis prescription from Urgent Care, or the Hospital? What kind of doctor can prescribe medical marijuana?
First, it’s important to know that your ability to obtain medicinal cannabis will depend on the state you live in, and whether you are afflicted by a qualifying ailment, or not.
The most common illnesses approved for cannabis treatment are:
The list of qualifying conditions varies from state to state. For example, 27 states and the District of Columbia consider glaucoma to be a qualifying condition for medical marijuana, however Delaware, New York, and West Virginia do not. Due diligence should be used to check what conditions qualify for medical cannabis in your state.
Is it Even a Prescription?
No. The biggest reason is that marijuana is still an illegal substance on the federal level and isn't technically even allowed for use in medical studies. It’s classified by the DEA as a Schedule I drug along with heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy), methaqualone, and peyote.
The DEA maintains that "Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse."
Instead of a prescription like other types of medicine, for medical marijuana, doctors write recommendations to the state asserting that a patient will benefit from cannabis as a part of their comprehensive treatment.
Like most state-level programs, the implementation of medical marijuana guidelines varies greatly from state to state.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the use of cannabis for medical purposes is legal in 30 states, plus the territories of Guam and Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia, as of June 2018.
Fifteen other states have more restrictive laws limiting tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content, in favor of access to products that are rich in cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive component of cannabis.
Several states permit the use of medical marijuana to treat a broad scope of conditions, including chronic pain or insomnia. However, many other states only permit use for very specific conditions, such as AIDS, Multiple Sclerosis, or Glaucoma.
What Kind of Doctor can Prescribe Medical Marijuana?
Provided the patient's ailment is on the list of qualifying conditions that can be legally treated with cannabis, any licensed doctor in a state where medical marijuana is legal can write a recommendation for a patient.
Though some physicians may choose to focus on cannabis in their practice, any normal doctor can prescribe (recommend) medical marijuana in states where it is legal.
But, to be eligible to make recommendations for medical marijuana, doctors must meet certain state guidelines.
All states require:
- A physician in good standing with a valid medical license in the state they practice.
- Physician must be a M.D. or D.O. (Medical Doctor or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine).
- Physician must register with the state in which they intend to recommend medical cannabis.
Beyond that, some states have further requirements before the physician can recommend medicinal marijuana. Ohio, for example, requires the recommending doctor complete 2 hours of cannabis specific "continuing medical education," while Connecticut requires doctors to possess an active Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) controlled substance registration that is not subject to limitation.
How do You Get a Recommendation?
Assuming you live in a state where medical marijuana is legal, finding what kind of doctor can prescribe medical marijuana and recommend its use shouldn't prove to be problematic. Though, again, the complexity of the process will depend greatly on the state that you live in. Some states allow video consultations with a doctor, in order to receive a certificate of recommendation, while most other states require an in-person visit to a doctor's office.
For patients under 18, some states require a recommendation from two or more doctors, before the minor can be issued medical marijuana.
Once the patient receives a recommendation, he or she or an of-age caregiver can purchase weed, possess it, consume it and, in some states, even grow it themselves.
Perhaps you suffer from a qualifying condition in your home state, and you do not have a primary doctor to recommend you for a MMJ (medical marijuana) card. Could you go to Urgent Care and receive a recommendation from one of the attending physicians? Or if you find yourself in the emergency room, would the doctor there recommend medical cannabis?
Probably not. Due to the highly-transient nature of medical visits, hospitals, emergency rooms, and Urgent Care centers have adopted strict rules involving the administering and prescribing of any medication with a history of abuse.
An attending physician from one of these facilities will undoubtably direct you to see primary care doctor who can better assess your needs and follow up on the efficacy of your cannabis treatment.
Due to sparse medical research from the federal government and the unique hurdles required to recommend medical marijuana, your doctor may not feel comfortable including cannabis into your treatment plan.
He or she may not feel comfortable condoning the use of a quasi-illicit substance, or they might feel that more research needs to be done before they are fully on-board with cannabis as a legitimate medicine.
The good news is, that unfavorable opinion of cannabis is not universally held among medical professionals. Just as you might get a second opinion about a potential surgery, you may want to consult other doctors about medicinal cannabis.
There has been consistently growing support for medicinal weed in the medical community for several years as indicated by a poll the New England Journal of Medicine conducted in 2013 where they found that "76 percent of all votes in favor of the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes."
This voluntary poll of doctors around the world shows a broad acknowledgment of the medicinal attributes that cannabis possesses.
Paging Dr. Green
There are several resources when it comes to searching for a doctor to recommend medical cannabis. Some states have a public registry of doctors who are authorized to recommend medical marijuana that you might want to search through.
Otherwise a quick internet search of 420-friendly doctors in your area can give you a sense of a specific practitioner and yields access to patient reviews.
There are even some websites that compile medical cannabis recommending doctors in a searchable platform.
And there is always the option of calling one of the doctors who advertise on billboards, should that suit your needs.
After You Have Been Approved
After your doctor fills out your recommendation, and the state approves your submission, you will receive a medical marijuana card in states that require them.
When you find a dispensary, you will need to bring either your certified doctor's recommendation or your medical marijuana card, or both depending on the state, and a current driver's license or another form of picture ID.
Each state that has approved medical marijuana has its own system for treatment. It’s important to check your local laws to make sure you stay within the margins of state law.