If you’ve already had your medical marijuana card evaluation, you may have noticed that it probably wasn’t quite like going to your primary care physician or even a specialist’s office. That may leave you with a lot of questions when it comes to cannabis as medicine
What Support Does a Medical Marijuana Doctor Typically Give Patients?
Because of the ongoing disconnect between state and federal cannabis laws, medical marijuana card offices operate a little differently than traditional doctor’s offices. One important difference is that insurance companies don’t reimburse medical marijuana physicians for cardholders’ evaluations. This means that every patient has to foot the whole bill instead of getting insurance to help out with the cost of the appointment. What this also means is that your medical marijuana card evaluation appointment may be the only medical advice you receive before visiting the dispensary to select your products.
Reading a few tips for your first dispensary visit can go a long way toward helping you decide what cannabis products are right for you. Here are some additional ways to get more advice regarding medical marijuana:
Check In With Your Doctors: Make sure to be honest with your primary care physician and other specialists about your choice to medicate with medical cannabis. Be forewarned that while your doctors may have vast knowledge about your condition and pharmaceuticals used to treat it, they may not have enough information to advise you on how to incorporate cannabis into your treatment plan. Notifying your pain management providers can be especially important if you’re currently under an opioid contract. And you always need to advise your surgery team of your cannabis use any time you are undergoing anesthesia, just like any other medication.
Visiting a functional medicine or holistic medicine practitioner who typically has more thorough knowledge of medicinal herbs can be insightful when beginning your treatment plan.
Cannabis patient services are popping up as well to help patients navigate their pharmaceutical prescriptions and cannabis recommendations together. One site, called Prescriptii, allows patients to compare strains and conditions and analyze results.
Check Out Relevant, Accurate Media: Be mindful of the types of cannabis content you view on the internet and social media. Facebook groups and similar resources can be helpful for some types of support for cannabis patients, but should never be trusted as a source for medical advice.
Some of the most detailed resources for cannabis product information include Weedmaps, Leafly, and All Bud. Cannabis lifestyle magazines like Herb and The Weed Blog can also be useful for navigating the various products available and getting the latest news. Sites like Reddit can be a great resource for all topics related to marijuana; a few boards that are popular include r/marijuana, r/mmj, and r/trees. If you want to follow cannabis legal matters, great sites to check out include Marijuana Moment, MJBizDaily, and High Times.
State-specific publications can be excellent resources for local cannabis information. In Ohio, MedicateOH publishes information about the medical marijuana program, latest legislative efforts, and resources for patients to receive more local support.
A warning: For-profit drug treatment centers often spread outdated and misleading information on their websites that exaggerate the dangers of cannabis. Be wary of information that originates from these sources.
Meeting the Cannabis Makers
Patient conferences, exhibitions, and on-site dispensary information sessions can be a great way to meet one-on-one with the makers of cannabis medicines you use. Some cannabis companies keep much of their operations private, while others are more open. Some even invite patients for tours of their facility. Be sure to follow your favorite cannabis companies on social media to find out more about their processes, special events and sales.
Support groups can be a great way for patients who use cannabis to feel connected to other patients or their caregivers. Many cities have formed Meetup groups that support cannabis patients.
Americans for Safe Access (ASA) was formed in 2002 by a medical marijuana patient to create a forum that would act as an advocate for acceptance of cannabis as medicine. ASA is the largest of its kind in the U.S., comprising citizens, scientists, medical professionals and patients. The goal of ASA is to help reduce legal, political and social barriers so patients and researchers have increased access to medical cannabis.
Realm of Caring serves anyone who needs more information about cannabinoid therapies. This includes families, individuals, medical professionals, researchers, educators, and the cannabis industry.
The U.S. Pain Foundation seeks to increase safe, fair access to medical cannabis for people with chronic pain. It also aims to provide education and resources on medical cannabis as a treatment option.
Support Groups For Veterans
Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access (VMCA) The VMCA advocates for veteran’s rights, specifically focusing on the right for therapeutic access to cannabis products to be included in the VA healthcare system.
Veteran’s Ananda, Inc. Founded by Army veteran Sarah Stenuf, Veteran’s Ananda Inc. is dedicated to helping armed service members and their families. The organization provides support for veterans seeking rest, care, and an array of alternative treatments and therapies, including but not limited to medical marijuana. Their goal is to encourage a more holistic approach to post-military life, offering long-term healing programs with promise.
The Battle Brothers Foundation empowers veterans through community-based personal development, economic upward mobility, and progressive medical treatments to better their lives and the lives of their families. Battle Brothers was founded by disabled U.S. Special Operations veterans and donates100 percent of its profits to fund research on medical cannabis use for veterans.
Support Groups For Women
WomenCann is a collective of women of all ages, backgrounds, and experiences who love cannabis and the positive effects of the medicinal plant. WomenCann strives to build an inclusive and empowering community to make a change in this industry and life surrounding marijuana.
Midwest CannaWomen is an organization advocating for minorities and women communities for opportunities in the cannabis industry across the Midwest.
Ellementa is an industry organization aiming to empower women in cannabis with online and live networking events and workshops in cities across North America. Ellementa brings together women interested in cannabis as a health and wellness product, focusing on CBD and lifestyle brands.
While many churches still shun marijuana, cannabis has been used, accepted, and even celebrated as part of religions for centuries.
The Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church is a movement born in Jamaica in the 1950s and incorporated in Florida in 1975. The movement is based on the teachings of Marcus Garvey and they use cannabis as a sacrament.
Sisters of the Valley grow and sell medical marijuana in California. They use it to make lotions, tinctures and other products. Although they wear nun’s habits, the sisters have no connection to the Catholic Church.
In 2017, the International Church of Cannabis opened as a place of worship for the followers of a brand new religion: “Elevationism,” dedicated to the spiritual benefits of cannabis. The church still meets weekly in Denver, Colorado.
*A caveat that cannabis churches are often heavily scrutinized, so be sure to be aware of laws where you live before joining one. While churches can be effective support organizations, those that assert a divine right to grow and dispense cannabis to members for religious purposes typically do so outside the law. The only way to receive cannabis legally is via a dispensary or caregiver.
National Groups for Expanding Patient Access and Legislative Reform
NORML, one of the most well known advocacy groups, supports the legalization of recreational cannabis for adults and has been at the forefront of many legalization initiatives. Operating out of Washington, DC since 1970, NORML was behind several successful local ballot initiatives that moved marijuana law enforcement to the bottom of the list of priorities for local police. NORML retains several hundred lawyers working on decriminalization initiatives throughout the country. The advocacy group largely focuses its efforts in swing states where public opinion is gradually swaying toward adult use cannabis legalization.
The Last Prisoner Project champions both racial justice and cannabis reform. A collaborative effort of cannabis industry experts, activists, educators, and community leaders, The Last Prisoner Project is “committed to freeing every last prisoner of the unjust war on drugs, starting with 40,000 people in prison for cannabis offenses legal in most states.” The organization amplified its efforts during the pandemic, which spread at record-setting rates through overcrowded prisons.
The ACLU organizes protests and legislative action to protect women, immigrants, minorities, wrongfully incarcerated prisoners, and cannabis users across the United States. The nonpartisan organization works through lobbying and litigation, organizing more than 1 million members to act in the interests of preserving fragile civil liberties in the United States. The ACLU fights to implement just marijuana laws and help individuals fight unjust prosecution for marijuana-related offenses. Its staff of several thousand volunteer attorneys regularly represent injured parties and also offer impartial legal expertise in court cases outside their jurisdiction.
Getting Involved at the Local Level
Cannabis activism has resulted in enormous progress towards legalization. The medical marijuana community plays an important role in helping to fund these efforts, ultimately helping shape the future of cannabis policy. Find out which organizations are active in your area and offer to volunteer your time, talents, or dollars.
Author: Gabrielle Dion Visca
Gabrielle has been writing and editing professionally for the medical and wellness industries for more than 20 years. She’s held positions with The Journal of Pediatrics, Livestrong, The Cincinnati Enquirer, and Patient Pop. She currently writes articles about medical marijuana for Duber Medical, and is the founder of the Ohio cannabis journalism non-profit, MedicateOH.