Updated on January 4, 2020.
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Medical marijuana has become an accepted treatment in more than half the states in the U.S. Because it’s still federally banned, each state must establish it’s own laws, policies and criteria for obtaining medicinal cannabis. Although other countries provide medical marijuana in traditional pharmacies, that is not how patients in the United States are permitted to get this Schedule I substance.
If a patient feels medical marijuana would be a beneficial treatment for their condition, they must visit a physician to receive a recommendation, not a prescription. They’ll use this recommendation to apply to their state’s medical marijuana program and get a patient ID card. Then, they use their card to purchase medicinal cannabis at a local medical marijuana dispensary. However, a physician’s recommendation is only good for a set amount of time. Once it expires, it’s the responsibility of the patient to renew their medical cannabis recommendation.
But how long is a recommendation good for? Although each state has their own requirements, a recommendation is generally good for one year or 365 days. After that, they must call their physician or make an appointment with a new marijuana doctor to get their recommendation renewed.
If you’re unfamiliar with the process, it’s smart to review some general guidelines about how to get a recommendation and what to do when it expires.
How to Get a Medical Marijuana Recommendation
As stated above, each state is responsible for formulating its own medical marijuana program. This means that although the general process is the same, there may be some variations to this depending on which state you live in. To ensure you have accurate information, be sure to check the guidelines specific to your state.
Generally speaking, here is what you should do to obtain a medical marijuana recommendation:
Ensure You Have a Qualifying Condition: Each state has its own list of conditions that qualify patients for medical marijuana. Check to see if your health issue meets your state’s regulations.
Meet With a Physician to Obtain a Medical Marijuana Recommendation: This is the most critical step in the application process. You must have a bona fide relationship with a physician who is approved to recommend medical marijuana in your state. Some states require specialized training for this, so be sure your doctor meets all your state’s criteria. They will assess your condition to determine if you qualify for medical marijuana treatments. Ensure you bring along any medical records which record the progression of your disorder.
Establish a Bona Fide Relationship With Your Recommending Physician: It’s important to note that some states require patients to establish a bona fide before you can obtain a medical marijuana recommendation. Certain states even go so far as requiring you to meet with them for several months before getting a recommendation. Check ahead to see what your state’s requirements entail.
Proof of Residency: To obtain medical marijuana in some states, you must be a resident there. During the application process for your medical marijuana card, you will need to have physical proof of this, which could be your state driver’s license or ID or another photo ID combined with a bank statement or utility bill with your address on it.
Apply to Your State’s Medical Cannabis Program: Most states that have legalized medical marijuana have established a program to oversee the registration of new and existing patients. You will need to fill out an application, supply them with your physician’s recommendation and show them your proof of residency to become a registered patient. Some states also require an application fee.
Become a Registered Patient: Once you are approved, you will be an officially registered medical marijuana patient. Many states provide their patients with ID cards, while others have an online database that dispensaries can access to confirm a patient’s status.
Obtain Medical Marijuana Treatments: Many states require you to choose one dispensary to be your designated provider of medical marijuana. Dispensaries are well-versed in guiding patients through the process of registering with them and will help you in any way they can. You can then purchase medical marijuana. But be sure to follow your state’s guidelines as to how much you are allowed to possess at any given time.
Why Do Physician’s Recommendations Expire?
Eventually, you will need to either meet with the physician who gave you your initial recommendation or make an appointment with a new marijuana doctor to renew your recommendation — in most states, they’re only good for one year. Once this expires, you will no longer be able to purchase medical cannabis, even if you got your ID card later during the year.
The reason states require a renewed recommendation each year is to ensure that only the patients who need medical marijuana treatments are receiving them. If a physician finds that your condition no longer meets the state’s qualifications, they may refuse to write a renewed recommendation. However, these doctors understand how essential cannabis treatments are to their patients. So, if you believe you still need medical marijuana to treat your disorder, you will likely receive a renewed recommendation.
How to Renew Your Physician Recommendation
To ensure continuous access to your medical marijuana treatments, be aware of your recommendation’s expiration date to prevent a gap in coverage. You will want to make an appointment well ahead of its expiration either with your current marijuana doctor or a new one. After you receive your recommendation, you must then submit it to your state’s medical marijuana program so they can ensure you remain on their patient registry.
Let MarijuanaDoctors.com Help You Find a Recommending Physician
Whether you’re a first-time patient or need a new physician to issue you a renewed recommendation, let MarijuanaDoctors.com help you. We’re here to connect you with physicians in your state who meet all your state’s requirements. For patients who find it hard to travel, we can let you know if telemedicine appointments are an option in your state, as well.