Medical Marijuana Caregivers
Posted by Glenn Beierle on 10/26/2018 in Medical Marijuana
Updated on January 30, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
Most states in the United States, including the District of Columbia, have made the use of medical marijuana legal in all its varied forms. Additional states are currently pondering potential bills to follow the lead of these states and the District of Columbia. With the use of medical marijuana comes the need for medical marijuana caregivers. Let’s find out more.
What Are Medical Marijuana Caregivers?
First, let’s go over what a standard caregiver does. As most of us know, a caregiver is a person who assists someone who is ill, disabled (mentally, physically or both) or injured. A live-in caregiver can help an elderly, disabled or sick person by doing the following:
- Cooking for them
- Feeding them
- Providing transportation
- Administering medication
- Assisting with clothing and hygiene
- Running errands
Weakness, fatigue, pain and arthritis are usually reasons a medical marijuana patient will designate a medical marijuana caregiver. Many medical marijuana patients are confined to their beds. Very much like a standard caregiver, a medical marijuana caregiver is a person who assists a patient or client with a range of health-related tasks the client may not be able to perform on their own. The only difference is that they also help their clients legally obtain and use medical marijuana.
A medical marijuana caregiver has to meet the following criteria in the state of Massachusetts:
- Registered with the state’s health department
- At least 21 years of age
- Not the registered patient’s marijuana-certifying physician, meaning that the physician who prescribes the medical marijuana cannot assist the patient in obtaining it
- May accompany a patient to the dispensary and go inside only if they are the patient’s designated, registered medical marijuana caregiver
Along with the rise of medical marijuana use comes the issues involving care for those who use it to feel relief from the pain of their symptoms and the side effects of treatment. Many people who use medical marijuana need a medical marijuana caregiver. The following is some additional information regarding tasks a medical marijuana caregiver completes for their patients in Massachusetts:
- The medical marijuana caregiver is an agent of the patient: Patients can give the caregiver the right to go into a cannabis dispensary on their behalf.
- A caregiver can do the shopping: The marijuana caregiver can purchase marijuana from authorized, legal retail operations on behalf of the patient.
- A caregiver can deliver the marijuana to the patient: Caregivers are permitted to transport the marijuana from the authorized legal outlet to the patient’s home.
- Administering the marijuana: A caregiver may administer marijuana to the cardholder in any of its many forms, such as smoking, edibles, oil or vaping.
- Cultivation: They may help the patient/cardholder grow up to a two-month supply of marijuana. This marijuana may be grown at the caregiver’s or patient’s home. It has to be grown and kept in an enclosed, locked area that is not visible to the public.
- Prep the medical marijuana for the patient to use: Examples include breaking up the bud for vaping or smoking, which could be hard for the patient to do due to arthritis or weakness.
- Abstain from using the marijuana themselves: Just because someone has obtained marijuana caregiver status doesn’t mean they can use medical marijuana recreationally in any way. Some law enforcers may press charges if a medical marijuana caregiver uses marijuana that was originally intended for patients’ use.
Where to Find a Medical Marijuana Caregiver
Finding a medical marijuana caregiver can be as simple as asking someone you trust to take on the position. A lot of patients will ask a family member or two, depending on the state, to be a caregiver. Other patients have asked close friends to become caregivers. The following are traits a medical marijuana caregiver should have:
- A focus on reliability
- Access to reliable transportation
- A close enough relationship with you that you feel comfortable using medical cannabis around them
- Knowledge about the basics of marijuana
Another great resource for finding a potential medical marijuana caregiver is the internet. Some states post listings of caregivers on their health department website pages. Many state sites online link patients and medical marijuana caregivers.
Marijuana Facts to Know Before Becoming a Caregiver
As mentioned above, it’s imperative for a good, capable marijuana caregiver to be knowledgeable about marijuana. There are many strains of cannabis. If you familiarize yourself with the various strains, you’ll be much better for it. It will make you a better-educated caregiver, as you’ll know how each strain affects your patient.
A Brief Guide to Marijuana Strains
Discovering the correct strain for your patient will take a bit of trial and error. For every condition and ailment, there’s a number of marijuana strains that will help your patient. Remember that not every strain will make them high. Strains full of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) will get them high. CBD-filled strains (cannabidiol) act as a counter to THC. There are also strains available that do not contain any THC. These options will not make a patient high. Check out more information on marijuana categories and strains:
- Sativa: This marijuana classification identifies strains high in THC. They tend to be uplifting and energizing. Sativa strains tend to be tall plants with narrower leaves. They’re also known to have a longer flowering cycle. Sativa thrives in an extended warmer climate, and popular strains include Sour Diesel, Green Crack, Lemon Haze and Strawberry Cough.
- Indica: Marijuana classified into this group is high in CBD and makes patients feel relaxed, sedated and sleepy. Indica plants are normally shorter than sativa plants. They have broad, wider leaves and flower in a shorter cycle. They thrive in a shorter, cooler climate. Some popular indica strains are Purple Kush, Afghan Kush, Blue Cheese and Northern Lights.
- Hybrids: This classification is for any blend of the two strains mentioned above, sativa and indica.
Is This Marijuana Right for Your Patient?
When you’re evaluating whether or not a strain works for your patient, you’ll have to go through some trial and error. To aid you in determining what’s good (or not), here are some questions you can ask your charge:
- Does this strain make you nervous or anxious?
- How high are you? If you’re high, is it a comfortable high, or are you uncomfortable?
- Has there been a decrease in pain or discomfort?
- Do your symptoms feel worse after the marijuana’s effects wear off?
- Are you noticing additional symptoms when you medicate with this specific strain? Other symptoms could be paranoia, dry mouth, headaches, dizziness and dry eyes.
- How energetic or sedate do you feel after taking this particular strain?
The Different Forms of Marijuana
Marijuana is offered in various forms, which allows patients to diversify the way they take it. Try to learn as much as you can about the different methods. Even though smoking remains the most popular way to medicate with marijuana, a lot of patients don’t enjoy smoking it, as it’s irritating to the throat and lungs — especially for someone who’s sick. Often used in place of smoking, vaping is a less harsh way to consume medical marijuana. Other options include:
- Edibles (a variety of food, candy and snacks infused with marijuana)
- Raw marijuana teas and juices
- Topicals (lotions, creams and rubs)
- Tinctures (an alcoholic extract of the weed)
- Transdermal skin patches
Other Helpful Tips for Administering Medical Marijuana
Now that you’ve learned more about classifications, strains and methods of administering medical marijuana, there are some other hints you may find helpful. Remember that the trial and error process mentioned earlier will also be prevalent here. It takes a few tries to decide on an optimal course of application. Consider the following:
- Combine more than one method: Mixing two or more methods of consumption might bring a better level of relief to some patients than just using a single approach.
- Figure out the correct dosage: Your patient’s doctor might help point you in the right direction by suggesting a good starting dosage for a couple of different methods. In general, if your patient is ingesting the marijuana, the usual beginning dose is five milligrams for an adult. If needed, the patient can adjust the doses and make them higher.
- Use the whole plant if you can: If you’re still testing out combinations to see what works, it’s a great idea to try whole plant treatment for the benefits reaped from what is called the “Entourage Effect.” The whole plant has cannabinoids, terpenes and other compounds that work harmoniously with each other. These compounds will make ingestion more effective than not using the entire plant.
- Become familiar with all the dispensaries in your area: Figure out what types of marijuana are available at each dispensary along with which forms they come in. The three types of dispensaries are wellness centers that sell marijuana and offer wellness programs, medical dispensaries that sell only medical marijuana to patients and caregivers and medical-recreational dispensaries.
- Seek advice from a registered nurse: There are RNs out there who are knowledgeable about marijuana patients and their conditions. They should be able to pass you some sound advice, especially if you’re new to becoming a caregiver. That said, a nurse will not be able to sell any marijuana to you.
Becoming a Medical Marijuana Caregiver
Every state has their own specific set of laws and procedures when it comes to registering as a medical marijuana caregiver. One of your very first tasks to complete is to study your state’s laws regarding medical marijuana patients and caregivers. Most states have the same age minimum of 21 years old to become a caregiver.
To be eligible for becoming a medical marijuana caregiver for a registered patient, you’ll have to follow several steps and remember several facts in the state of Maryland, for example:
- Be at least 21 years of age when you register.
- Register with the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission.
- Wait to be approved by the Commission.
- If you are approved by the Commission, buy an ID card from the Commission for a fee of $50. You’ll be required to carry a Caregiver ID card.
- For the process of registration, you’ll have to submit a valid, United-States-government-issued photo ID along with a recent color photo. Once you’re approved and officially designated as a medical marijuana caregiver with a written, valid certificate from a doctor who is registered with the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission, you’ll be required to purchase a caregiver ID card from the Commission for $50.00.
- After becoming a designated caregiver in the state of Maryland, you can register as a medical marijuana caregiver. Maryland makes the process pretty simple, as they only register caregivers online.
- Caregiver registration is done entirely online. The application form is available only online. It has to be completed and then submitted in one session. You won’t have the ability to save your application and finish it later.
Remember, this list pertains specifically to Maryland. Each state has their own specific medical marijuana laws. It’s vital for medical marijuana caregivers to know what the laws are in their particular states. For example, in Maryland, a patient can have up to two designated caregivers at one time. However, the state of California allows a patient to have only one caregiver at a time.
Why You Should Consider Becoming a Medical Marijuana Caregiver
If you have a parent, relative or friend who is ill or incapacitated and needs help, remember that their mind will be placed at ease if they have a caregiver they know well and trust. That doesn’t mean they won’t have any worries, of course, but they won’t have to worry about relying on a stranger to care for them and do such personal tasks for them if they need it.
Becoming a medical marijuana caregiver can be gratifying for you when you witness their aches and pains subsiding with each dose. It can also ease your mind knowing that you have this person’s best interests in mind when you’re helping them. For example, if the patient is a parent or a relative, you won’t have to worry about them relying on a stranger to care for them and their personal affairs.
Trust is also very important when you look at the serious nature of having marijuana and marijuana products around. The patient — should they be a parent, another relative or a friend — knows they can trust you to handle their marijuana in a safe, secure manner. You’ll also have peace of mind not having to worry whether or not a stranger caring for your relative or friend will be trustworthy with such easy access to the medicinal pot.
Helping You Help Others Who Need It
With such an abundance of information available about becoming a medical marijuana caregiver, you’ll need some helpful guidance to navigate it all. Every state comes with a different set of laws and guidelines to follow, so your best bet is to do some research about the state in which you live.
Find out where you can become a medical marijuana caregiver. We’ve listed all the states that allow the use of medicinal marijuana. Along with plenty of useful information that can help you start your caregiving journey, we also have a vast roster of doctors who work with medical marijuana. Find a doctor in your area who works with medical marijuana today!