Every state law in the US has regulations for the use of medical marijuana, but almost two-thirds of the states have made the use of marijuana legal for medical treatments. The FDA has only approved it for two particular conditions of epilepsy: Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.
The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in fact only considers marijuana to be a Schedule I drug due to the likelihood of it being misused for recreational purposes. For example, the use of heroin, LSD, and ecstasy has almost lost its medical value. This issue demands that researchers acquire a special license to do further studies on the use of medical marijuana.
Moreover, the request to further support additional research on marijuana was granted by the agency, which resulted in a much more simplified and easier process for researchers. Research is crucial in the medical world—it allows experts to advise patients and doctors on its uses, effectiveness, side effects, and most important, safety. Let’s first explain what medical marijuana is followed by the significance of owning a medical marijuana card.
What is Medical Marijuana?
Medical marijuana is derived from the marijuana plant or chemicals to cure diseases and conditions. Medical marijuana and recreational marijuana are not different from each other—the only point of difference is the purpose of consumption. One is taken for pleasure, another for medical purposes.
A typical marijuana plant can contain over 100 different chemicals known as cannabinoids. Each chemical has a significant impact on the body. For example, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are the prime components used in medical marijuana. THC has the “high” factor that people feel when they smoke or eat food that contains marijuana.
In the US, California was the pioneering state to legalize medical marijuana, back in 1996. Later on, in 2018, marijuana was also legalized for recreational purposes in the state. Locals and tourists are now legally allowed to purchase marijuana at dispensaries. This can often create confusion as users can easily just source marijuana for consumption without having to go through the entire process of applying for a medical marijuana card.
The Medical Marijuana Card
A medical marijuana card is an ID or permit card issued by the government and authorized by your doctor that allows you to grow, possess, and consume cannabis for medicinal purposes. Anyone who wants to own a medical marijuana card has to pay a certain fee to obtain it. Typically the card has an expiry of one year, which can be renewed following certain procedures.
How Can I Get a Medical Marijuana Card?
The procedures of acquiring a medical marijuana card can vary for different states, but some commonalities can be found in the process. For instance, you will obviously have to first check with the health department to apply for a California medical marijuana card. It’s ideal to start navigating your options from this point. You will be able to determine if your condition can or should be treated with medicinal marijuana. You will have to get the list that states all the conditions that can possibly be treated by medical marijuana. If you find your disease or condition enlisted, the next step is to consult with your primary physician. Ask them if medical marijuana can be incorporated as a part of your treatment.
However, your doctor may not have the authority to certify you with a medical marijuana card. But they are definitely considered to be reliable to at least provide you with prescription, insights, effects, and dosage. There are conditions that require mandatory prescription and paperwork such as X-rays or MRIs from your doctor before you apply for certification.
Once you have the go-ahead from your primary care doctor to consume medical marijuana for treatment purposes, you’ll have to find a registered doctor in your area who has the authority to certify you for a medical marijuana card. The authorized doctor will further assess whether your condition qualifies to own a card. In addition, they will advise you on the doses, uses, and side effects of consuming medical marijuana. Please note that no doctor has the right to authorize the use of marijuana to their patients, but the discussion will guide you to get it from the dispensary.
There may be more formalities waiting for you, depending on where you live. Your state laws may require you to register with the health department prior to getting a medical marijuana card. The actual card might take weeks to arrive, but until then you will be given a temporary card to purchase medical marijuana from the dispensaries. You’ll come across different products at the dispensaries, so you will want to consult with a cannabis pharmacist to help you select products based on your doctor’s suggestions.
Benefits of a Medical Marijuana Card
Owning a medical marijuana card definitely makes it easier to acquire it, but it also increases the risk of abusing it for recreational purposes too. Due to this reason, state laws are being reconsidered to only allow permits to those who qualify for certain mental and physical conditions with proof of medicinal benefits. With so much confusion around it, you might be wondering if owning a medical marijuana card is worth it. Let’s take a look at the numerous benefits of having one.
1. Save Money on State and Local Taxes
You can save a good amount of money in the long run by acquiring a medical marijuana card for your treatments. Marijuana use for recreational purposes has a higher tax through a 15 percent excise levy and additional sales tax. This means that if you are an owner of a medical marijuana card, you can save up to 25 percent, as these add-on taxes are not applicable for card owners.
2. Better Accessibility to Dispensaries
Applying for a license to run a recreational marijuana dispensary is a lengthy process. The state of California has about 358 weed stores that are legally licensed to operate. The difference between medical and recreational dispensaries is significant—recreational ones are five times less than medical dispensaries. If you own a California medical marijuana card, you will have access to any dispensary to buy it.
3. Lower Age Requirement
For recreational users to legally purchase marijuana from dispensaries, they must be 21 years of age. However, the minimum age for owning a medical marijuana card is 18, which clearly indicates that you can access marijuana from the age of 18 for treatment purposes.
4. Additional Legal Protection to Carry
In California, you are only permitted to carry up to one ounce of marijuana. There are also restrictions in place if you want to grow cannabis—a maximum of 6 mature plants or 12 immature plants. On the other hand, if you own a medical marijuana card, you are free to carry up to 8 oz of cannabinoid products. Having the card gives you access to legally carry it around, provided you are within your limits.
5. Access to Cleaner, More Potent Strains
Almost all marijuana dispensaries are strict about medical cannabis—which means that there are processes in place for testing and verification which are not used for recreational marijuana. Moreover, you can get your hands on a variety of products that have different THC levels, CBD ratios, potency, and strength. A medical marijuana card gives you access to purchase stronger strains in comparison to recreational marijuana.
Since recent California state laws have legalized purchasing marijuana for recreational use, the need to own a medical marijuana card only applies to certain restrictions and usage. But if you want to explore all the benefits of having a medical marijuana card, you might as well start the process of applying for one with your doctor’s approval.