November 22, 2022 08:00 am ETEstimated Read Time: 5 Minutes
Medical cannabis is legal in 37 states, including our nation’s capital, Washington, DC. Nineteen states have legalized recreational or adult-use cannabis. Just because medical cannabis and recreational cannabis are legal in so many places doesn’t mean that the programs are uniform across the country. There are many existing differences between medical cannabis programs from state to state.
To have legal access to medical cannabis, residents of the state with a medical cannabis program must follow the rules set forth by the state for legal access to medical cannabis. In many places, this means obtaining a medical cannabis recommendation from a state-certified MMJ doctor and then submitting that information to the state to receive a state-issued medical cannabis card.
Once you have your medical cannabis card, you can access medical cannabis in your state and sometimes other states, depending on their rules regarding out-of-state MMJ cards. Let’s look at how cannabis laws are different from one state to another.
Medical Cannabis Programs: Qualifying Conditions and Reciprocity
In states with legal access to medical cannabis, patients must typically have one or more qualifying conditions. These conditions include PTSD, chronic pain, cancer, AIDS/HIV, multiple sclerosis, and other medical conditions. Not all states require qualifying conditions. In some states, you need to speak to a licensed medical professional who can prescribe cannabis for your condition. In Oklahoma, to receive a medical cannabis recommendation, you must speak with a state-licensed MMJ doctor and demonstrate that you understand cannabis and how it may benefit you.
A doctor in Oklahoma can recommend cannabis for any medical condition they see fit to help. New York recently followed in these footsteps by dropping its list of qualifying conditions to become a medical cannabis patient in New York. Other states, however, are very restricted and require documentation of being diagnosed with one or more qualifying conditions. If you want to learn more about qualifying conditions in your state, visit your state’s cannabis website.
To legally obtain your medicine in another state, you must visit states that offer reciprocity where your medical cannabis card from your home state is also accepted. Some places offer this while others do not. Reciprocity means that if you have a medical cannabis card in one state, you can use it in another state that offers reciprocity to make legal, medical cannabis purchases. Be sure to check with any state you plan on trying to use your med card in before going there. Not all states except other states’ MMJ cards. This also means just because you have a med card from your state doesn’t necessarily mean you’re allowed to have your medicine out of that state.
Some Medical Cannabis Programs Make Cannabis More Accessible to Patients
Cannabis isn’t exactly cheap. Nothing is worse than going in and making a $120 purchase and then being hit with a $140 or $150 out-the-door price. Tax on cannabis can be extremely high. It’s almost as if the tax got a hold of some potent THC. In some states, medical cannabis patients pay little to no tax, whereas recreational consumers do.
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In states that offer medical and recreational access to cannabis, there are medical-only cannabis dispensaries where only those with state-issued medical cannabis cards can shop. This means that if you live in a state where both are legal but qualify for patient status, obtaining your medical cannabis recommendation and card could be beneficial so that you have access to more places to shop!
In states like Colorado, where there is both legal, medical cannabis and recreational cannabis, medical cannabis patients often have the advantage of purchasing higher potency products and have higher possession/purchasing limits. Retail consumers may only be able to buy edibles with 100mg of THC per product; medical cannabis card holders can purchase products with up to 1000mg or more per product in some states. Additionally, in many states, medical cannabis patients can purchase and possess a higher limit of cannabis products.
In some states, medical cannabis patients can grow their cannabis, whereas recreational consumers in the state cannot. In other states, a caregiver or designate a dispensary is required to grow for you. Growing your own can be an enjoyable, rewarding, and challenging process. If you have a green thumb, chances are you’ll do great when it comes to growing your own at home, producing good quality, and doing so in a financially sound way.
You can receive your medical cannabis recommendation over the phone or online in some states. If your state doesn’t allow telehealth, you’ll have to get your medical cannabis recommendation the old-fashioned way by visiting the doctor in person. When you choose Veriheal to make your telehealth appointment, you can typically complete the entire recommendation process within 10 to 15 minutes from anywhere you have phone service or a strong internet connection!
States Differ on Caregiver Rules and Recommendations for Minors
As mentioned above, growing cannabis at home can be challenging. Not everyone has a green thumb. This doesn’t mean they should be denied the freedom of old-fashioned homegrown cannabis.
For these people, caregivers are the perfect answer. A caregiver can be appointed a patient’s plant count and grow that plant count for a patient. There is a big difference between quality small-batch cannabis and cannabis pumped out in large volumes. Unfortunately, some states allow for caregivers, whereas others do not.
In many states that have legalized medical cannabis laws, it is not uncommon for them to require two doctor recommendations for cannabis when it comes to a minor. If you have a minor child that may benefit from cannabis, it is essential to research your state laws regarding how to get them access to it legally. In some states, however, only one recommendation is needed.
Additionally, the requirements for accessing the program differ for patients under 18. These are just a few ways that medical cannabis programs can differ, so be sure to research cannabis laws in your states and any states you plan to visit.
Ashley Priest is a patient, mother, entrepreneur, and activist that fights to end prohibition globally for a better future for all. Ashley has a passion for sharing education pertaining to the goddess plant known as cannabis. She believes that a single seed can tip the scales and that together through education we can end the stigma that is preventing cannabis from flowering to its full potential globally.
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