How to Ask Your Doctor About Cannabis Treatments

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While recreational cannabis regulations are spreading across the country, most states already have legalized marijuana for medical use. Typically, medical marijuana programs allow sufferers of certain types of qualifying diseases to access weed from medical dispensaries, which operate like pharmacies to ensure patients get the treatment they need to be comfortable and productive. Yet, it isn’t enough to be diagnosed with a qualifying disease for a patient to gain access to medical weed; most states require patients to receive recommendations for cannabis treatment from licensed physicians — which can seem like an intimidating doctor’s visit.

Fortunately, asking your doctor for a medical marijuana recommendation doesn’t have to be stressful. Here’s a guide to getting access to the cannabis treatment you need:

Know Your State Medical Marijuana Laws

At the federal level, cannabis is still an illegal drug, which means states that have legalized marijuana for medical and/or recreational use have been forced to create their own regulations. The result is a patchwork of different rules in different places. Unfortunately, a patient might be eligible for medical marijuana in one state but not in another, so understanding your state’s unique medical marijuana program will guarantee that you aren’t approaching your doctor in vain.

Most states post their rules for medical marijuana access online. For example, if you are looking to access Massachusetts weed, you can find information about the program on the website for the state’s Cannabis Control Commission. In particular, you should verify that your health condition qualifies you for medical marijuana access, and you should look for what special rights medical marijuana users have. In many states, licensed patients do not have to pay taxes on cannabis products, and some are granted special access to otherwise prohibited products, like high-THC strains. Finally, you should look into what you need to apply to the program. All states require a recommendation from at least one medical professional; in some states, a state-licensed doctor must provide the recommendation, but in other states, any healthcare provider will do.

Broach the Topic of Medical Cannabis With Your Doctor

Because cannabis remains relatively controversial, you might not want to ask your doctor directly for a medical marijuana recommendation. Instead, you should feel out their opinion on medical cannabis. You might mention “a friend” who has seen positive effects from using cannabis to treat their health condition and see how your doctor responds. They might admit that medical cannabis isn’t within their expertise and suggest that you speak with a provider with more knowledge on the subject — or they might dismiss the use of medical marijuana out of hand. In either case, you know that requesting a recommendation for medical marijuana from this doctor likely won’t be productive, and you can look for other options.

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Ask How Medical Cannabis Could Help Your Condition

If your doctor seems receptive to the idea of cannabis treatment, you can start inquiring about using medical marijuana in your specific case. Marijuana’s effects are numerous, and different effects are beneficial for different conditions. For example, cannabis can lower blood pressure, which helps glaucoma sufferers manage the pressure inside their eye; cannabis stimulates appetite, which is helpful for cancer and AIDS patients; cannabis reduces REM sleep, which can make it easier for PTSD sufferers to get rest; and cannabis alleviates pain and inflammation, which is useful for so many different conditions. You should ask your doctor how, exactly, cannabis would be impacting your condition, so you can set your expectations appropriately.

Respect the Risks of Medical Marijuana

Research has found cannabis to be much, much safer than society once believed — but that doesn’t mean consumption is fully without risk. Just like pharmaceuticals, cannabis can negatively interact with other medications or treatments, potentially creating other negative health conditions. Your doctor and your pharmacist should be able to predict these drug interactions, so you know what to expect.

What’s more, some compounds within cannabis have psychoactive effects — in other words, they will make you high. For some, a cannabis high is exactly what they need to combat their health condition, but for others, the high is a distracting and unfortunate side effect. There are ways to minimize the high, like microdosing or using low- or no-THC products, but ultimately, if the high is too uncomfortable, medical marijuana might not be right for you.

Your doctor should serve your interests, so if they aren’t willing to talk to you about the possibility of integrating medical marijuana into your treatment plan, you might consider finding another doctor.

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