For very ill and home-bound medical marijuana patients, the role of the caregiver can be a crucial one. For individuals who can’t access cannabis themselves, a trusted caregiver can supply it to them for medical purposes. The exact role that the caregiver plays, and how to become one, varies widely by state.
What Is A Caregiver?
A caregiver gives care to someone who needs help taking care of themselves due to an injury or disability or a chronic illness that renders them too sick to leave their home. The person who needs help may also be a child or an older adult with mobility issues. Friends and family members can sometimes be paid for the care they provide. The caregiver is allotted a budget for care instead of the patient receiving care services directly from the state.
A caregiver may help with personal hygiene and care, meals and nutrition, home maintenance and basic housekeeping. Among the other chief responsibilities of a caregiver is to know all the patient’s needed prescriptions and alternative medicines.
What Is the Role of the Caregiver?
In many states, medical marijuana patients must designate their caregiver. But in other states such as California, a caregiver is defined as anyone “who has consistently assumed responsibility for the housing, health, or safety of that person.”
Many caregivers will provide transportation for their patients to and from doctors or dispensaries if they are too ill or otherwise unable to do so themselves.
Caregivers must be able to access cannabis legally. This may be done by purchasing directly from a dispensary or, in some states, by growing it for the patient. Caregivers are tasked with ensuring the patient’s medical cannabis recommendation is current and has been renewed before the expiration date.
In most states, caregivers are designated by the patient. The caregiver may have multiple patients, but the patient will not typically have more than one or two caregivers. Caregivers must follow the legal application process with their state agency to become designated. This process varies depending on the state.
What Can’t Caregivers Do?
Cannabis caregivers cannot consume any of their patient’s cannabis products. They also cannot legally consume any cannabis unless they have a medical card themselves or are located in a state that allows for adult-use.
In states that allow caregivers to cultivate, caregivers cannot cultivate cannabis for anyone besides the patient or patients designated to receive it. Caregivers cannot sell or give away any of their patient’s cannabis to anyone.
Caregivers must be a certain age (usually 21 years of age or older), and may have to pass a background check. They may be asked to take a certification course and submit the proper application to the agency that oversees medical marijuana. In some states, caregivers must be a parent or legal guardian or have authority under a health care surrogate designation or power of attorney for health care.
There may be disqualifying factors that prevent a person from being accepted as a designated caregiver. In some states, a marijuana caregiver is not allowed to be employed in the medical cannabis industry and can’t be the patient’s doctor. Once accepted, the caregiver may have to renew their registration occasionally and cannot assist a patient if the registration has lapsed.
Maryland: Once registered, a caregiver in Maryland may serve a maximum of five registered patients at one time. A registered patient is permitted to have a maximum of two caregivers at one time. Minor patients (under the age of 18) are required to have at least one caregiver at all times. Only parents and legal guardians of minor patients are eligible to serve as their caregivers.
In Missouri, patients can designate up to two caregivers. The patient must be licensed and the caregiver(s) must be licensed. Caregivers can have up to three caregiver licenses for three separate patients.
Oklahoma: Caregivers in Oklahoma can cultivate a total of 12 plants, 6 mature and 6 immature; they must cultivate said marijuana on a property owned by the license holder or on a property in which the license holder has the written permission of the property owner, and finally; caregivers must cultivate the medical marijuana plants in an area that cannot be accessed by the general public, or in plain view of any streets adjacent to the property.
Pennsylvania: Caregivers have to be Pennsylvania residents and are designated by patients to deliver medical marijuana to them, obtained at a Pennsylvania dispensary. Caregivers register for an ID card and must complete a background check. Patients should tell their recommending physician if they wish to have a caregiver, as the physician will need to annotate this on their annual patient certification.
Texas: Patients may add a caregiver to their account through their physician. Patients should contact the physician to add a caregiver, as the caregiver is added directly by the physician through CURT. The caregiver will need to provide their full legal name, as well as the last five digits of their SSN. Once registered, the caregiver can receive dispensary deliveries or visit a dispensary on behalf of their patient. Minors can qualify for medical cannabis, and a parent or guardian must be listed on their initial application. Minors suffering from terminal or chronic conditions like cancer, epilepsy or any other long-term neurological condition that affects quality of life, and some kinds of autism may qualify a minor for an MMJ card.
Ohio: In Ohio, caregivers have to be 21 or older, unless you are the legal parent of a minor patient applying as their caregiver. You need to have an acceptable form of ID such as an unexpired United States passport, United States passport card, state-issued driver’s license, or other state-issued identification from the Ohio bureau of motor vehicles (BMV). The caregiver registration fee is $25. Individuals may serve as caregivers for up to three patients.
This “Completing Caregiver Registration” video on the patient and caregiver page of the Ohio Medical Marijuana Program can walk patients through how to register.
In Ohio and several other states, delivery of medical marijuana is not legal. So home-bound patients should consider electing a caregiver to pick it up for them.
Tips for New Medical Marijuana Caregivers
Many medical marijuana caregivers don’t know where to start to obtain cannabis, what the laws and rules are surrounding it, and what the “right time” is to consider it an option in the course of managing and living with a disease. If you’ve become a caregiver to someone who uses medical marijuana as part of their treatment, there’s some important ways you can support them:
- Have an open mind: Even if you don’t use it or agree with it yourself, the person you’re caring for has decided that cannabis is a necessary part of their therapy. Make sure that they have it just as they would a pharmaceutical medicine.
- Learn about cannabis: By getting to know the different strains and forms of administration available at the dispensary, you can better prepare yourself for what to order for your patient.
- Talk to your Budtender: Your budtender can help you navigate which products are appropriate for your patient given their condition and past purchase habits.
Points to Keep in Mind for Selecting a Caregiver as a Patient
The caregiver has to qualify under the state law’s eligibility requirements. Choose someone whom you know is both trustworthy and reliable to be your medical marijuana caregiver. The caregiver you select should be willing to educate themselves on the laws and the benefits and drawbacks of medical marijuana. They need to have the ability to purchase it and transportation to and pick it up. Caregivers should be responsible for waiting at the dispensary to place the order or utilize an online ordering process.
It’s important for both a patient and their caregiver to feel comfortable with how to use the medicine and a good idea of the possible effects it might have on the patient.
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.