What to Know about Becoming a Medical Cannabis Patient

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If you're dealing with a chronic or terminal medical condition, the advent of legalized medical marijuana (or cannabis) in many U.S. states may come as a major relief. For many, cannabis provides a respite from symptoms like migraines, nausea, and even seizures without the side effects common among certain pharmaceuticals. However, because marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I drug under federal drug enforcement laws, accessing it at the state level can come with some legal hoops that you have jump through. Read on to learn more about becoming a medical cannabis patient.

Determining Eligibility

Each state that permits the use of medical cannabis sets out its own patient eligibility criteria. In most cases, patients must be diagnosed with one or more chronic conditions to be eligible. These conditions include terminal cancer, HIV, AIDS, and certain seizure disorders. Once you've been diagnosed with one of these qualifying conditions, you'll need to submit documentation of this diagnosis and any required application forms to your state's department of health or other entity that regulates the distribution and use of medical cannabis.

If it's been years or decades since your initial diagnosis of a qualifying ailment, you may need to visit a board-certified physician to receive updated documentation of this diagnosis. Regulations on the timeframe of diagnoses ensure that only individuals who have a current need for medical cannabis are able to access it.  

Accessing Cannabis

Once you've received your diagnosis, submitted it to your state's board of health, and created an account online, you're ready to pursue the actual product. But, even in states where medical cannabis is legal, this doesn't always mean that you're allowed to cultivate your own crop. Often, you'll be required to purchase medical cannabis products only in liquid, pill, or vapor form; after all, smoking any substance isn't likely to provide health benefits.

Most states have a centralized medical cannabis patient center, where you'll go to meet with a pharmacist who can review your medical records and determine the best dosage and form for your specific needs. You may need to experiment with varying doses or forms before you find the right combination that provides symptom relief. Like other prescriptions for controlled substances, you'll generally be limited as to how much medical cannabis you can access on a monthly or annual basis. If you find that the amount you've been prescribed isn't enough for symptom relief, you can bring these concerns up to the cannabis patient center's pharmacist.