According to the Institute of Medicine of The National Academies, roughly 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain conditions that would benefit from the usage of medical cannabis. As a result of these conditions, the U.S. economy experiences economic costs upwards of $560-635 billion every year.
Lucky for us, medical cannabis has come to the rescue for millions across the country. Statistics provided by the nonprofit ProCon indicate that 33 states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation that permits the use of cannabis for medical purposes.
It’s believed that medical cannabis can treat the symptoms of over 20 different ailments. For instance, those suffering from the debilitating side effects of chemotherapy can now find relief from nausea and vomiting, chronic pains, and a decrease in appetite.
Unfortunately, not all physicians are open to the idea of prescribing cannabis. This is often because they lack the necessary education that demonstrates the effectiveness of this powerful plant.
Perhaps you’ve asked your doctor for a medical marijuana prescription, only to be swiftly denied. If prescription medications or therapies aren’t an option, what should you do now? Let’s take a closer look at why so many doctors are hesitant to prescribe medicinal cannabis, and what you can do if you qualify for a prescription but you’ve been turned away.
Medical Cannabis vs. Recreational Cannabis
Before we examine the realities of prescribing medical cannabis, let’s take a closer look at the difference between medicinal and recreational weed.
When it comes to the shopping experience itself, the environments tend to be very similar. Whether dispensaries offer medical weed or weed that’s just for fun, they operate in a similar fashion. Qualifying medical cannabis patients will present both their ID to prove they’re legally old enough to purchase cannabis, as well as their valid medical marijuana card. Some medical shops will feature a waiting room that allows customers to enter the shop one at a time to ensure privacy.
Recreational stores aren’t usually permitted to offer medical advice, but you can still shop them as a medical patient. Some shops are “dual-licensed,” meaning they cater to the needs of both recreational and medical consumers. They may also offer tax breaks and discounts depending on the state.
As for product selection, the menus at medical and recreational shops are very similar. You’re bound to find various flowers, vapes, tinctures, topicals, edibles, and strains no matter where you shop.
Why Are Doctors Hesitant to Prescribe Medical Cannabis?
According to data provided by Statista that projects medical marijuana retail sales through 2023, it is estimated that medical marijuana will soon bring in upwards of $8.4 billion per year. If such a staggering figure is true, then why do we hear about doctors denying medical marijuana prescriptions? And why were you denied?
Let’s start with what we already know: as popular as cannabis has become in recent years, it remains a federally illegal substance that carries a stigma. Even if some doctors would like to prescribe medical cannabis, many are simply too nervous to do so. Adverse effects or an allergic reaction to medical cannabis could be traced back to your doctor. They risk being fined, arrested, losing their license, or all three.
Believe it or not, other physicians are actually concerned for your health. Doctors may be concerned about the potential for substance abuse or dependence, where an individual develops withdrawal symptoms when they stop using marijuana. Some are even concerned about overdosing and deaths related to cannabis, even though no evidence suggests cannabis is lethal in any form. Unfortunately, many physicians feel as if they’re caught in the middle of an ongoing debate. They’d rather steer away from cannabis altogether than risk jeopardizing their practice and you.
Aside from all that, doctors are wary of drug users attempting to abuse the system. Some patients may show up for an appointment pretending they have a serious need for marijuana, but they’re actually looking for a prescribed hookup. It’s up to the physician to determine who has a serious need and who doesn’t. This can be unfair to genuine patients looking for help.
If you’ve already been denied a medical prescription by your doctor, don’t pass your anger or emotions onto them. Hundreds if not thousands of physicians have been placed in the middle of an ongoing debate that many choose to avoid entirely. It’s not so much that they don’t want to provide help—their hands are simply tied.
Medical Cannabis Information is Lacking
Physicians are smart. They’ve undergone rigorous schooling and real-world training that provides them with a logical outlook on medications and therapies. Before prescribing any form of treatment to a patient, a good doctor will study the research and make decisions as to whether or not it is an effective method of intervention.
Typically, doctors are uneducated when it comes to medical cannabis. The vast majority of physicians have little to no knowledge of it in any form. And because they’re responsible for the safety and well-being of their patients, doctors can be very unwilling to prescribe or recommend a substance they aren’t sure of.
If you’re looking to point a finger and place blame, redirect that finger on the federal government that has largely opposed medical cannabis research for decades. If we don’t know how it interacts with our body, doctors can’t prescribe it willy nilly. Until medical cannabis is studied in greater detail, doctors will remain hesitant to prescribe it.
What’s a Patient to Do?
If you’ve been denied a medical marijuana card by your primary physician, fear not. There are steps you can take that will help you find the relief you need. Let’s break them down, one by one.
1. Make Sure Marijuana Is Legal In Your State
Most states have launched medical marijuana programs in some form, but others have yet to join the club. If you’re interested in gaining access to marijuana as a means of treating your condition, take some time to find out what your state laws are regarding the use of medical and recreational cannabis. Use this handy map that illustrates the legal status of marijuana in every U.S. state.
2. Find Out Which Conditions Are Pre-Approved
It’s not as simple as asking your doctor for weed. Medical marijuana is only approved for individuals with pre-approved conditions. These include:
- Chemo-related nausea
- Chronic pain from arthritis
- Crohn’s disease
- Hepatitis C
- Multiple sclerosis
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Any terminal illness
3. Seek Out Physicians in Medical Marijuana Programs
In every state, you’ll find physicians that participate in the local medical marijuana network. If you’re interested in using medical marijuana to treat any of the symptoms listed above, or others that you believe may qualify for the use of medical cannabis, contact the doctor nearest you that specializes in these services.
After setting up an appointment with a registered physician, discuss your ailments and your desire to treat them with medical marijuana. If the doctor believes you can find improvement through the use of medical cannabis, you’ll be able to secure a prescription. You can then use this prescription to register with your state as a legally licensed marijuana user.
4. Register As a User and Find Your Local Dispensary
After you’ve been approved for a medical cannabis prescription, it’s time to register as a medical user with your state. Depending on the state you live in, this can be a voluntary or a mandatory process, so it’s important that you speak with your doctor to determine how the process works.
The purpose of registration is to notify law enforcement that you can use medical cannabis, and are legally allowed to have it in your possession. This will help you avoid any trouble with the law, and you can’t be arrested if found with marijuana on your person.
Once you’ve registered with your state, find the dispensary nearest you and prepare for your first dispensary experience! This may be a nerve-wracking experience for some, but we’ve provided all the information you’ll need to make it a breeze.
5. Use Your Medical Cannabis Responsibly
Keep in mind that you’ve been granted permission to use a substance that isn’t available to the general public in every state. Always use medical cannabis in private and avoid smoking in places where it isn’t allowed. When you’re traveling with medicine, keep your medical ID with you at all times. Treat your medical cannabis the same way you’d treat alcohol or prescription medications; keep it away from minors and don’t share it with the general public. Doing so can be an immediate cause for revocation of your license along with fines or jail time.
Enjoy the Benefits to Come
Both medical and recreational cannabis are substances that everyone deserves an opportunity to enjoy. The world may still have a stigma against weed, but slowly that stigma is changing with time and reformation.
If you find yourself seeking the many benefits of medical cannabis, don’t be afraid to contact your doctor to discuss your options. If you’ve been denied a prescription, remember to be understanding and open-minded; this isn’t a black and white issue. From there, find out what your treatment options are and seek a licensed physician that’s capable of prescribing medical cannabis in your community. Once you’ve secured your prescription, it’s time to enjoy the many benefits that this powerful plant has to offer.