23 May 2023


 May 23, 2023

Medical Cannabis Card: An Introduction

Medical cannabis cards are issued annually by the state where a patient lives. As of this writing, thirty-eight states and the District of Columbia permit the medical use of cannabis. Each state has its own requirements, but there are broad similarities. The majority of card issuances are for chronic pain as an alternative to ibuprofen or paracetamol, but cannabis has long been proven helpful in treating a variety of other ailments. It is notably effective in combatting both the nausea and lack of appetite that is common to cancer patients.

Whatever your qualifying medical condition, the first step is to have it diagnosed by a physician. Most states will provide a medical card for patients with cancer, glaucoma, Crohn’s disease, MS, ALS, epilepsy, Parkinson’s, anorexia, migraines, fibromyalgia, or HIV and AIDS. Chronic pain and nausea often earn a card, but are a tougher sell in some states.

Are All US States the same?

To be frank (and here at Pot Advisor, we like to be frank), in California, you can roll down to Venice Beach and tell a guy with a handmade shield and a bone through his nose that your foot hurts, and you can walk away with a legitimate medical cannabis license. Probably not literally, but close.

Compare that to Mississippi, which overwhelmingly passed medical legalization as a ballot measure in 2020. In 2021, the state supreme court struck down the law because it didn’t have anything better to do in the middle of a pandemic. Another medical cannabis law was later introduced and has since been ratified, but Mississippi’s SB 2095 is more begrudging than the initial ballot measure. One imagines Birmingham to be more stringent on all aspects of the issue than Sacramento.

Medical Cannabis Card

Once a physician agrees to sign off on the medical cannabis card as a recommended therapy, in most states the patient has to register with that state’s medical marijuana registry. The patient must submit proof in writing that a physician has recommended this course of action. All of this can be done online in all states that offer the program. If a patient is working with a caregiver, the caregiver must also enter their credentials into the system. In most cases, the patient will create an account, which can be used to renew the license in subsequent years.

The license is a hard copy, which is mailed to the patient and typically must be presented at the dispensary each time it is used. It is valid only at approved medical dispensaries in the state; a list of approved dispensaries is available at the state’s medical marijuana registry. In some states, a medical card will avail you of more potent strains and forms of cannabis than are available to recreational users, though that is becoming less common. And, if there is ever a cannabis shortage (not gonna happen), cannabis patients are prioritized over mere enthusiasts.

The chief ways in which medical cannabis differs from state to state lies in access, ease of process, pricing and availability, and knowledgeability of staffs and prescribers. Another important factor is a commitment on the part of the state to protect patients in case of workplace and other types of discrimination for approved use. While some states remain committed to depriving some of the sickest of their citizenry proven medical therapies altogether, it’s not merely a binary issue as to whether a state offers medical cannabis licensure or not. Many states with medical cannabis laws already on their books make regular improvements in those laws as the impact of good legislation in this area becomes better understood.

What about the Federal Government?

The Biden administration does not appear motivated to take on medical cannabis as a national issue right now, preferring to leave it to the states. Not only is that a blown opportunity to court some real populism that crosses political lines, it is a real-world travesty for patients living these intransigent states. In the opinion of Pot Advisor, it is a case of practicing medicine without a license on the part of these legislatures. It is primitive and barbaric, and would be laughable for its display of ignorance if only it weren’t beset with so many tragedies.

In most states, medical patients are not obliged to pay state sales or excise tax for their cannabis, or if they do have a taxation schedule, it is considerably gentler than it is for recreational users. In some states (Washington, for instance), the recreational taxes can be more than 40%. There is no discernable pattern for state-by-state cannabis taxation. It is a complete wild west show out there, with some of the most traditionally cannabis-hostile states having the lowest recreational cannabis taxes. One expects changes as these legislatures recognize revenue opportunities.

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