I chose to seek a medical marijuana license after years of dabbling with cannabis to treat my anxiety and
migraines. Although the general procedure was fairly simple, there were a few bureaucratic processes that
I wish I had known more about it. If you’re wondering if you’ll be able to acquire a card where you live,
Here’s a general sense of what to expect.
If you have a primary care provider, try chatting with them first.
The first thing you should know about receiving a medical cannabis card is that you must have one of
the precise qualifying ailments that your state permits to be handled with medicinal marijuana in order
to qualify. So, according to Brian Kessler, M.D., the first thing you should do is look at your state’s list of
qualifying conditions (typically listed on the state health department’s website), see if you have one of
those conditions, and then talk with your doctor about using medical cannabis to manage that
condition. (Dr. Kessler is a New York City-based sports medicine and pain management physician who
certifies medical cannabis patients online through NuggMD.)
If you’re considering utilizing cannabis to treat a new problem, “such things demand an examination and
a workup” before presuming cannabis is the solution. You may need to have documentation from your
regular doctor on hand to obtain certification to use cannabis for certain health issues.
Get in touch with a doctor who is registered to certify you for a card.
You must be certified by a doctor who is registered in your state to perform such certifications in order
to obtain your medical cannabis card. So, if your primary care physician can also certify medicinal
cannabis users, you may simply obtain your certification from them. However, not everyone is so
fortunate, as most general practitioners are not experts in cannabis therapy, so you will almost certainly
I need to seek out a specialist.
“The endocannabinoid system isn’t taught in medical school,” says Vanessa Niles, M.D., an ob-gyn and
the founder of Synergy Health, a medical cannabis clinic in California. “You must locate a doctor that
specializes in the cannabis or has some degree of cannabis training to be able to certify you regardless of
whatever state you are in.”
You should be able to contact registered practitioners in your state through your state’s health
department. (For example, here’s a list for New York.) Cannabis physicians may also be found on
websites such as Leafly and WeedMaps.
Another alternative, which may become more appealing as the COVID-19 epidemic develops, is to
conduct a virtual consultation through firms such as NuggMD or Veriheal, which connect patients with
registered cannabis physicians in their region through video chat.
Chat with the doctor to figure out a plan that works for you.
The purpose of your consultation with a cannabis expert is to confirm that you have a medical condition
that qualifies you for a medical cannabis card. Following that, you and your doctor will choose the best
method to begin utilizing cannabis to assist manage your unique concerns.
Remember that each state has its own list of qualifying health problems that can be certified by a
qualified doctor for a medicinal cannabis card. There is some overlap; for example, cancer, HIV/AIDS,
and chronic pain appear on several of the lists. However, there are some noteworthy differences.
Migraine headaches and period discomfort (dysmenorrhea), for example, is not mentioned as
qualifying conditions in New York, although they are in New Jersey.
However, you may be shocked at how flexible those requirements are for interpretation. Migraines are
not a qualifying illness in New York, but chronic pain and “pain that impairs health and functional
capabilities as a substitute for opiate usage or substance use disorder” are. “There’s a whole range of
illnesses that individuals may not realize qualify under chronic pain and things like that,” explains Dr.
Kessler, who certified me. Chronic headaches, gastrointestinal problems, and TMJ pain, for example,
may fall under the umbrella of other illnesses, he notes.
You might be surprised at how open those criteria are to interpretation. In New York, migraines are not
considered a qualifying diagnosis, although chronic pain and “pain that affects health and functioning
capacities as a substitute for opiate consumption or substance use disorder” are. “There’s a huge
spectrum of conditions that people may not realize qualify as chronic pain and things like that,” Dr.
Kessler, who certified me, adds. Chronic headaches, gastrointestinal issues, and TMJ discomfort, for
example, may be symptoms of other ailments, he says.
During this assessment, the doctor should also warn you about any potential negative effects. Increased
heart rate, nausea, and dizziness are possible symptoms.
You should leave this examination with a good sense of what to obtain from a dispensary, but no doctor
in the country is legally able to prescribe cannabis. That means you won’t get a particular prescription
that a dispensary is compelled to fill in the same way you could get an antibiotic prescription filled at a
drugstore, according to Dr. Tishler. However, your doctor should provide you with as much assistance as
possible in order for you to obtain what you want.
You may need to register with the health department, depending on your state.
Each state has its own set of regulations and procedures for medicinal cannabis patients. Patients in
some states, such as Connecticut and New York, are required to register with the state health
department. Finally, these standards will be determined by the state in which you live. “Getting the card
isn’t a huge problem for most individuals,” explains Dr. Tishler.
Once you have your card, you can use it at a dispensary.
Your physical card will most likely take several weeks to arrive from your state’s health agency. In the
Meanwhile, you may be issued a temporary medical cannabis card that allows you to visit a dispensary.
Be prepared to bring your doctor’s prescription, but keep in mind that various dispensaries provide
different items. Dr. Tishler will occasionally recommend certain dispensaries.
Consider talking to a cannabis pharmacist if that’s something your dispensary offers.
In dispensaries, cannabis pharmacists are becoming increasingly frequent. They are pharmacists who
have received specialized training in the effects of cannabis on the body and how it interacts with other
drugs. Some states, like New York, require cannabis pharmacists to work at dispensaries. According to
Drs. Kessler and Niles, cannabis pharmacists in dispensaries may not be an unbiased source of
Don’t hesitate to follow up with your care team if you have questions.
It may take some trial and error to find a medical cannabis strategy that works for you. If you’re experiencing problems obtaining your card, contact your cannabis doctor. “I tell people all the time, ‘I’m going to send you my email,’ because I want to know how they’re doing,” Dr. Tishler explains.