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Talking To Your Doctor About Cannabis


Medical marijuana has been around longer in some states than in others, but actually having a conversation with your general physician, or even having a cannabis doctor, is unfamiliar territory for many. Most herbalists when at the doctor are accustomed to being asked if they smoke and instantaneously saying “cigarettes? no,” or just flat out “no.” But with cannabis becoming normalized as it is now decriminalized in almost half of the country and only four states that have yet to legalize, both patients and doctors are starting to (if not already) consider the medicinal benefits that the marijuana plant can provide. Still, you may have reservations about sharing your cannabis use with a medical professional. This article will share some influential material to help spark your medical cannabis conversation.

First things first, you should tackle your fear of actually telling your doctor that you smoke marijuana. Remember the positives of why you use cannabis and let that reassure yourself that you are inquiring about medical cannabis for good reason. Sure, there are still some people out there that are anti-cannabis - and if your doctor happens to be one of them, then they may not be the one to ask for a medical marijuana (MMJ) card; and that’s okay! There are still many doctors that are unfamiliar with medical cannabis, may not have an understanding of your local laws, or are afraid of getting in trouble for discussing it. A few ways of opening the conversation would be to mention a news segment or documentary you’ve seen about cannabis or bringing up a friend or family member who is an MMJ patient. A way to gauge your physician’s level of cannabis knowledge would be to ask if they have attended any continuing education programs or workshops about cannabis recently. It would be ideal to talk to a doctor who has, however, don’t be afraid to possibly convince your doctor consider doing some more research or furthering their education.

If you run into a doctor who is off-putting about recommending cannabis use, it’s completely fine to look for a second (or third) opinion. Many herbalists decide it may be best to consult with doctor who specifies in medical cannabis practice. However, before seeing an MMJ physician, you should have medical records of a diagnosis and prior treatment or a physician referral for a better chance at being recommended.

You should be well educated in medical marijuana, what you intend to use it for and why you should be recommended as an MMJ patient. Be prepared to tell your doctor specifically what condition or symptoms you suffer from and possibly how you’ve noticed that cannabis has helped. Honesty is extremely important in any conversation with a doctor in order to receive the proper care and treatment - things are no different here. Divulging the amount of cannabis you use, how often and how you choose to consume is important information to share when speaking with your doctor. You will also want to share how long you have had the condition and how long you’ve self-medicated.

Along with medical records or a referral, it is key that you bring the necessary documentation in order to move forward with the recommendation process. Of course, your doctor should be able to take care of this for you but as we said before, not all doctors are privy to the in’s and out’s of recommending cannabis use for a patient. The Americans For Safe Access (ASA) website has some great informative pamphlets, forms and information that you can bring with you to your doctors visit to help steer the conversation. It is essential that you are aware of your state requirements, bring copies of required paperwork for your state and ask for a written recommendation.

Your doctor’s formal recommendation can be used to apply for your medical marijuana card, which enables you to be a registered medical cannabis user in your state. In some states, the card is optional. However, make sure you research whether you will need one in your state. A thing to consider, though, is the protection that this card can give you as a registered patient in your state. Law enforcement may ignore your doctor’s recommendation letter but should acknowledge you as an MMJ patient who is permitted to use and carry. The card is an official state document and can help you avoid unnecessary hassle.

A very important fact that you may want to consider is not everyone turns a blind eye to cannabis use. Just because an MMJ card is a valid document, cannabis can be grown and sold legally, and patients are allowed to consume, not all institutions accept that. Regular cannabis use could impact life insurance premiums. You could be listed as a smoker and be assigned smoker rates, which can be two-to-three times (200%) more than non-smoker rates. We know what you’re thinking: ‘so I just won’t tell the life insurance company that I smoke!’ Don’t do it, they will find out in the mandatory, free medical screening test that includes urine AND blood tests. You may also want to consider your employment and if they conduct random drug tests. If your employer performs drug testing and is not willing to recognize the medical benefits, you could have a big problem.

If you are considering visiting a medical cannabis physician, expect to spend at least $100 for a consultation. And remember, a consultation does not guarantee a recommendation. All in all, it is very recommended that you open the conversation about medical cannabis with your doctor.