Perhaps the single biggest reason that more people do not choose to use medical marijuana (cannabis) is the fear that they will somehow be found out – and they will lose their job, their license, the respect of their family and friends, or some standing within their church or community. They are afraid that if they become a legal user, there is a list or database somewhere that someone can get access to or that can be hacked and exposed to others. They are afraid to use a legal process to gain access to a natural healing substance that can support and improve their health and quality of life.
While I myself have a deep suspicion of the government and its many violations of our privacy, as this article will demonstrate, these fears and myths are unfounded.
Many Americans are aware that if they live in a state with medical marijuana laws, and if they get a doctor’s recommendation, they are legally allowed to use medical marijuana (or cannabis) for their qualifying medical condition(s). In California, under The Compassionate Use Act of 1996 (Prop. 215), these conditions can include anything from Cancer to Alzheimer’s Disease to chronic pain, depression, or insomnia.
Q. What does it take to get a Medical Marijuana Doctor’s Recommendation and/or Card?
A. You will need to get a valid recommendation from a doctor licensed in the State of California (or your own state) for your qualifying medical condition. You will also need to provide a state-issued ID (Driver’s License or State ID Card) to prove your identity. If you need a list of doctors in your area, you can contact me and I can provide you with one – or you can now get your rec online!
Q. What are the qualifying medical conditions?
A. In California, these medical conditions include:
HIV or AIDS
Persistent Muscle Spasms
Any debilitating illness where the medical use of marijuana has been “deemed appropriate and has been recommended by a physician” (source: www.norml.org)
You can look up your own state’s condition list here: http://norml.org/states
Q. How long does it take to get a doctor’s recommendation?
A. Wait times are minimal to get an appointment to see a doctor – in most cases you can just walk in. Typically, the office visit takes no longer than 30 to 45 minutes. HelloMD claims it only takes 20 minutes to apply for a recommendation through them.
Q. Do I have to go to a doctor’s office to get a recommendation?
A. Not anymore. Through HelloMD, you can now get a recommendation online through a video conference with a doctor. Telehealth is legal in California – but not in all states. Some states require a personal visit with a doctor.
From the Medical Board of CA’s website: http://www.mbc.ca.gov/Licensees/Telehealth.aspx
“Telehealth (previously called telemedicine) is seen as a tool in medical practice, not a separate form of medicine. There are no legal prohibitions to using technology in the practice of medicine, as long as the practice is done by a California licensed physician.”
“Physicians are held to the same standard of care, and retain the same responsibilities of providing informed consent, ensuring the privacy of medical information, and any other duties associated with practicing medicine regardless of whether they are practicing via telehealth or face-to-face, in-person visits.”
The price is also attractive: only $49 for one year, which includes your recommendation and card mailed to you.
Q. How much does a typical doctor’s recommendation cost?
A. This will vary by doctor, but the current average rate for a doctor’s appointment and recommendation in California runs about $60 to $80 for one year, with renewals yearly usually about half of that. A card with your picture will typically cost you an additional $10 to $20. It’s cheaper online with HelloMD. This cost isn’t covered by medical insurance – and you will usually need to pay cash.
Q. After I get my recommendation and/or card, what happens to my medical record?
A. Your medical record, like all your medical records, is kept on file with your doctor and is protected by HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), which protects medical privacy by all those involved, including your doctor. There are strict penalties for HIPAA violations and healthcare companies pay millions each year to ensure compliance from all of their providers. These records are also protected by doctor/patient relationship and they can’t be released except by your written permission or a subpoena or court order. Your medical record and your doctor’s recommendation are not sent to any governmental agency. Your recommendation number verification information is stored privately (not with the state) and separately online.
Q. Even though my records are protected by law, can’t someone get access to the records database, share it with other agencies or employers, or hack into it and release records? What about background checks by employers?
A. There is no database identifying medical marijuana patients by name! The only record in any database consists of your recommendation number, your initials, the name of your doctor, the date of issue, and its expiration date. In California, if you choose to get a state-issued Medical Marijuana Card (which is not required and is an additional cost), you will be entered into a county database which will include your recommendation number, photo and expiration date – but not your name or address. Current background checks are not going to be able to access these records.
Q. What if my dispensary or collective gets raided by the DEA?
While dispensaries are still being raided at times, according to NORML, a patient has never been arrested as a result of these raids.
Q. How can I verify what you’re stating is true about my records and how do I look up my own recommendation?
A. Here is a definitive statement from NORML. Here is an article referencing the opinion of two cannabis lawyers on the subject. As for recommendations, they are verified online or by phone. Go to http://verifymyrec.com/ or the website that will be listed on your recommendation – or someone else’s. If you type in your rec number, your name and address are not listed – only your initials, doctor name, date of issue, and expiration date. There are various other websites that exist to verify recommendations in the same way.
Q. After I get my rec, how do I get medical cannabis?
A. You will need to find and go to a legal storefront dispensary or join a collective. Some areas, such as Long Beach, California, used to have dispensaries but they have all been regulated out of existence. There are also some mobile delivery services, but they are not legal in some places. You are allowed to grow your own cannabis plants in many municipalities.
One alternative is to join a collective, which is a non-profit organized to legally operate under the law and provide cannabis to medical cannabis patients. Cannabis oil is the best and healthiest method of using cannabis. Also, if you are afraid of getting high from THC, you can try CBD (non-psychoactive), gradually increase dosage, or try suppositories (which reduce the high) – there are many solutions. I can introduce you to a collective which provides cannabis oil and lab tests all of its cannabis products for purity and safety and will work with you to provide the best remedy for your condition.
Q. Can I still be arrested for having and using medical marijuana?
A. Yes, you can still be arrested, because marijuana is not legal UNLESS you have a valid medical recommendation. Because of this fact, it would be wise for anyone with a recommendation to keep a copy of it or a card (or a digital copy on their phone) on their person at all times. With the recommendation number, law enforcement can verify if your rec is valid. Unless you live in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, or Alaska, the ONLY way to legally smoke or consume marijuana is to become a medical marijuana patient.
Q. Can I lose my job by using medical marijuana?
A. Yes. Currently you are not by protected from employer policies regarding the use of marijuana, even if you have a valid recommendation and you only use on your own time. There is currently no protection for employees in most states including California. In Arizona, patients who are drug tested are protected from retribution by law as long as they are not using on the job and it doesn’t interfere with their job. If you work at a job that mandates drug testing, your only protection is to test negative, and marijuana can take up to 60 days to fully leave your system.
Q. Does it really matter if I don’t get a medical marijuana card? Can’t I just keep on using anyway? Aren’t the police not prosecuting anymore? Isn’t it going to be legal in California after the elections this year?
A. If you choose to keep using, you are still using illegally and are subject to prosecution under state law except in the four states it is fully legalized. While law enforcement may no longer be actively going after users, they can still prosecute you if you are caught with it on your person or in your car. While cannabis may be legalized in California if a ballot initiative can get enough signatures to qualify, it will still have to get a majority of the vote and be implemented. No one can take any of this for granted. Currently, none of the remaining four ballot initiatives have gotten enough signatures to qualify.
You also won’t know what’s in your weed! With dispensaries and collectives, you have access to all kinds of products – hundreds of strains, vapes, edibles, salves, etc – and many of these are now lab-tested for content, purity, pesticides, chemicals, and other drugs. When you buy on the street, you don’t know what you might get.
If you really want to support your right (and everyone else’s basic human right) to natural medicine that has amazing healing powers we’re only still learning about – then you should stand up, go through the process, become legal, and protect yourself. The more people we can get to do this, the stronger the movement for natural health freedom will become.
Q. Is there any other way someone could find out?
A. Not unless A:) You tell them, B:) You post it on Facebook (“Hi Mom, look what I just did!”), C:) Someone follows you to the clinic, or D:) You have 3 pizzas delivered to your house every night.
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