Explainers

How to legally get medical pot in 2017

June 16, 2017
Courtesy of Drug Policy alliance SOURCE: Courtesy of Drug Policy alliance

Here’s everything you need to know to make your way to the right cannabis product for your condition:

Indication
You need a health reason to get a doctor’s recommendation to use medical marijuana. In practice, most people have a qualifying reason. The most common are chronic pain, insomnia, anxiety, inflammation, depression, cancer and seizure disorders. Thanks to Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, the California Constitution states that qualifying conditions are “the treatment of cancer, anorexia, AIDS, chronic pain, spasticity, glaucoma, arthritis, migraine, or any other illness for which marijuana provides relief.”

medical marijuana how to
By John Blanchard for San Francisco Chronicle


Recommendation

You can ask your primary care doctor for a recommendation. It’s essentially a doctor’s note saying that you could benefit from using cannabis. But more often than not, patients get a doctor’s recommendation from a physician who specializes in writing medical cannabis recommendations. Most cannabis recommendation practices do not require an appointment and do not require you to bring in your medical records or proof of insurance. (Insurance generally does not cover a recommendation.)
When asking for a recommendation, be honest. The doctor will ask if you’ve already used cannabis and if it has helped in the past. Doctors are required to perform a good-faith exam before writing a recommendation. That can cost $40 to $100, and recommendations usually expire in a year.
Talk to a doctor before using cannabis if you have a personal or family history of mental illness, heart disease, high blood pressure, angina or irregular heartbeat, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or an immune disorder, or if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.
Also talk with your doctor about potential drug interactions, as cannabis can increase or decrease the effects of certain drugs, most commonly opiates, alcohol and benzodiazepines.

John Blanchard | San Francisco Chronicle

Acquisition
Now that you have a doctor’s note for cannabis, you can legally acquire it. Most folks go to a medical cannabis store, called a dispensary, or use a delivery service. Fewer folks join a private collective to obtain cannabis, or grow their own. Cannabis patients have a defense in court for possessing as much as is medically necessary. State guidelines suggest possessing less than 8 ounces or six mature cannabis plants. Thanks to Proposition 64, which legalized recreational use, you don’t even need a doctor’s note to legally possess up to an ounce of flowers and 8 grams of cannabis extract or grow up to six plants.

John Blanchard | San Francisco Chronicle

Administration

Like any drug, medical cannabis is not a silver bullet. It doesn’t work for every person and every condition. It requires some trial and error to find the right type of product and how much to take. And it can have side effects. Doctors say a beginner’s dose might be as little as 2 milligrams of THC — the main active ingredient in cannabis.
Discuss what’s right with your recommending physician and adjust based on medical effects. No two people are the same, and two people with the same condition might take different cannabis products. Each mode of medical cannabis has pros and cons.
The most common side effects of cannabis can include dizziness, dry mouth, increased appetite, temporary memory impairment and, in some cases, anxiety — rapid heartbeat, red eyes and coughing from inhaled cannabis. Less common side effects can result from using too much cannabis and can include nausea, anxiety and dysphoria.
Unlike most other drugs, including alcohol, there is no lethal overdose level for cannabis. Patient support groups, health consultants and dispensary staff can be helpful in finding the right formula and dose for you.