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How To Get a Medical Marijuana Card in Your State

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on August 11, 2021

Medical marijuana is a common treatment for people with chronic pain or other conditions. While marijuana use remains illegal on the federal level, 29 states and Washington D.C. presently allow the use of medical marijuana by those who have a qualifying condition.

The term “medical cannabis” describes the derivatives of the cannabis sativa plant. Two of its active compounds are cannabidiol (CBD) and delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). CBD has several benefits but does not cause you to feel high. The intoxication, or high, associated with marijuana comes from THC.

If your state allows medical marijuana for certain conditions, here’s what you need to know when it comes to getting a medical marijuana card.

Marijuana as Medicine

Medical marijuana is nothing new, as research has been carried out over decades to see how it can be used to treat various conditions. THC, in particular, has shown to have several benefits when it comes to treating nausea and lack of appetite in cancer patients. 

Medicines derived from marijuana have been approved in several places around the world, including the U.S., Europe, and Canada. This includes pills, sprays, and liquids that contain THC. So far, researchers agree that these kinds of medicines are more effective than the whole marijuana plant when it comes to medicinal purposes. This is because the marijuana has to be purified before it can be used to make medication.

The most common use of marijuana as medicine is for pain relief. While medical marijuana isn’t strong enough to replace painkillers prescribed after surgery, it has proven helpful in alleviating chronic aches and pains, especially those related to aging. Medical cannabis isn't as addictive as opioids and works as an alternative to ibuprofen or paracetamol.

Marijuana is used to help cancer patients cope with nausea and vomiting. It also helps stimulate the appetite of these patients along with those who have conditions like AIDS and anorexia.

Qualifying Conditions

The laws surrounding medical marijuana vary from state to state, including which conditions qualify for its use. In general, states that permit medicinal marijuana allow its use for treating:

  • Cancer
  • HIV and AIDS
  • Glaucoma
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease
  • Epilepsy and seizures
  • Chronic pain
  • Severe nausea
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Anorexia
  • Migraines 
  • Fibromyalgia 

Depending on your state, your primary care physician might recommend trying medical marijuana if you have chronic symptoms that impact your quality of life. This includes symptoms that prevent you from carrying out daily activities or that threaten your safety and mental or physical health.

Getting a Medical Cannabis Card

The first step to getting a medical marijuana card is to talk to your primary care physician. Your doctor will determine if your condition requires the use of medicinal marijuana and will discuss any possible risks or side effects with you. Once you have your doctor's approval, you will be able to move forward with the process.

While the process varies by state, most will require you to sign up for the state’s medical marijuana registry, which you can likely do online. Part of the registration process will require you to provide proof that your doctor has approved medical cannabis to manage your symptoms.

To complete your registration, your state may ask you to create an online account where you can submit your application and doctor’s approval. Creating an account also saves your information in case you need to renew your medical marijuana card in the future. If you are applying for a card with a caregiver, your caregiver will also need to enter in their credentials.

You'll likely have to pay the fee for your medical marijuana card. The price varies by state, but you should be able to make your payment online. Once you have your card, you can then buy medical marijuana.

Where To Get Medicinal Marijuana

Having a medical marijuana card allows you to buy marijuana from approved dispensaries in your state. Depending on the state, having a card can allow you to buy products with higher levels of THC or buy larger quantities of cannabis products. Depending on your condition and the state, you may even be permitted to grow marijuana plants in your home for personal use.

Having a card lets you buy medicinal marijuana in the form of:

  • Oral solutions
  • Topical creams or applications
  • Pills 
  • Oils for vaporizing
  • Dried out leaves for smoking
  • Sprays

Once you have your medicinal marijuana products, you can either administer them yourself or your caregiver can help you if this individual is listed as your caregiver on your medical marijuana card. How long it takes to feel the effects depends on the form of the marijuana and the severity of your symptoms.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment: “How to apply for a Colorado medical marijuana card.”

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania: “Getting Medical Marijuana.”

Department of Cannabis Control California: “Medicinal cannabis.”

Harvard Health Publishing: “Medical Marijuana."

Mayo Clinic: “Medical marijuana.”

National Institute on Drug Abuse: “Is marijuana safe and effective as medicine?”

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