CERTIFYING PATIENTS FOR MEDICAL CANNABIS

Filling an Important Knowledge Gap For Patient Medical Marijuana Certification

While the possession, sale, and use of marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, it can now be used for medical purposes in 29 states, as well as in the Washington D.C. area (1).

Certifying patients for medical cannabis is now a reality greatly anticipated by many.

Yet despite this growing acceptance of its obvious therapeutic value, many healthcare professionals admittedly lack the knowledge necessary for certifying patients for medical cannabis properly.

There are many reasons for this lack of cannabis knowledge, but what matters most is that we begin to address it. That's what we hope to do in the following sections -- to provide physicians and other medical professionals a general guide to certifying patients for medical cannabis use.

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Therapeutic Benefits of Cannabis

certifying patients for cannabis

Now that many legal aspects of certifying patients for medical cannabis are handled by individual states, the first thing medical practitioners need to know about cannabis is the wide-ranging list of benefits it can have on their patients. It should be mentioned in advance that these benefits are no longer merely anecdotal or part of 'marijuana folklore.'

The following claims are backed up by rigorous scientific research (2). This is perhaps the most important reason that healthcare providers should understand how to prescribe cannabis – these benefits duplicate those of expensive pharmaceutical drugs without exposing patients to their often dangerous side effects.

Here are a few of the proven medical benefits of cannabis:

  • It can increase the appetite to healthy levels and help eliminate nausea.
  • It can act as a painkiller but without the addiction risk of opioid drugs.
  • It is an effective anti-inflammatory agent.
  • It can help control muscle spasms.
  • It can reduce the frequency of seizures.

Though the research on the following benefits is not quite as conclusive, studies strongly suggest that cannabis may help with these conditions/symptoms as well:

  • Addiction and certain forms of mental illness, including anxiety and depression.
  • Helping to reduce or kill cancer cells as an adjunct to radiation treatment.
  • Auto-Immune conditions such as HIV and multiple sclerosis (MS).
  • Insomnia and other sleep disorders.

Cannabis may not be a miracle drug, but this list is no doubt a formidable one. It should also provide all the motivation a healthcare professional should need to research further and remain open to certifying patients for medical cannabis.

CBD vs. THC: What Medical Professionals Need to Know when Certifying Patients for Medical Cannabis Use

The chemical structure of cannabis is very complex, but current practices center on two therapeutic ingredients: CBD or THC.

We'll discuss each of these in their turn in the following two sections, but it's important to keep in mind that these two compounds work synergistically in some patients and benefit them in ways that neither CBD or THC could alone.

Just as significantly, the legality of medical cannabis in a given state sometimes depends on the proportionate amounts of CBD and THC present in the cannabis product.

Questions? Porcaro Law Group has years of knowledge and experience in cannabis law.

Cannabidiol (CBD)

Other than THC, CBD is the most abundant cannabinoid molecule that's present in cannabis. The chief therapeutic property of CBD is its ability to act on the brain's cannabinoid receptors and provide distinct medical benefits without the 'high' that accompanies the psychoactive THC.

By itself, CBD does not have any psychoactive effects. In other words, it will not get a patient high.

The benefits of CBD are wide-ranging and can include:

  • Reduced seizure activity in patients with epileptic conditions
  • Pain relief
  • Reduction in anxiety and depression
  • Reduced agitation
  • Help with insomnia and other sleep disorders

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)

Simply put, THC is responsible for most of the psychoactive effects of cannabis products. It works by activating the cannabinoid receptors in those parts of the brain that are involved in things like pleasure, memory, physical coordination, and time perception.

For some people, THC can have some unpleasant side effects, but these typically occur when they've ingested an excessive amount of the compound. This difficulty is easily offset by proper dosing and caution.

The health benefits of THC can include:

  • Pain Relief
  • Alleviation of PTSD symptoms
  • Relief from nausea and vomiting
  • Increasing the appetite
  • Reduction of the eye pressure associated with glaucoma.

The list of benefits of both CBD and THC could go on and on, but this brief summary should give the medical professional a working idea of what cannabis can do for their patients.

Qualifying Conditions for Medical Marijuana

Like with any prescription medication, it's important that healthcare professionals understand the conditions that 'qualify' a patient for the use of medical marijuana.

There are two key reasons that understanding these qualifying conditions is so important. First, responsible healthcare providers do not wish to recommend marijuana use frivolously.

Therefore, they'll want to have an in-depth understanding of what medical conditions it can and cannot help before they begin recommending and certifying patients for medical cannabis.

Second, caregivers in states where medical cannabis is permitted are legally bound to recommend it only for patients who are suffering from symptoms or diseases that are explicitly mentioned on their respective state's list of qualifying conditions.

Below is a list of common qualifying conditions:

  •   Cancer
  •   Parkinson’s disease
  •   Epilepsy
  •   Multiple sclerosis
  •   Glaucoma
  •   A terminal condition diagnosed by a physician other than the qualified physician issuing the physician certification.
  •   HIV+
  •   AIDS
  •   Post-traumatic stress disorder
  •   Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  •   Crohn’s disease.

As a result, medical professionals certifying patients for medical cannabis must understand the qualifying conditions in their state to avoid legal difficulties. This is certainly not meant to steer professionals away from recommending cannabis for their patients; it's simply imperative that they understand how to navigate the legal complexities involved in certifying patients for medical cannabis.

Unfortunately, these qualifying conditions vary wildly from state to state and can often prove very restrictive. In the third link listed below, you will find a state-by-state listing of these qualifying conditions, as well as links to each state's official list.

Do keep in mind, however, that there is often a very large gap between what a given state calls a 'qualifying condition' and the wide range of symptoms/conditions that cannabis can actually alleviate.

Healthcare providers are advised to use both compassion and discretion when weighing what a patient needs against their state's requirements.

Conclusion

We hope this guide to certifying patients for medical cannabis proves useful to those medical professionals who wish to deepen their understanding of medical cannabis and begin to prescribe it for their patients.

While the information we've provided here is largely topically, it does provide both an overview of the subject and the impetus for further research. We also hope that potential cannabis patients benefit from this guide as well. At the very least, it will help patients and their healthcare providers a common vocabulary when discussing cannabis options.

In a very important sense, this is precisely what the medical cannabis movement is most committed to – giving patients more treatment options.

The movement has made incredible progress over the past several years, but more is definitely required. Physicians and other healthcare professionals can accelerate this progress greatly by familiarizing themselves with medical cannabis and certifying patients it responsibly.

For more information about certifying patients for medical cannabis, contact us today.

  1. https://medicalmarijuana.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=000881
  2. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/marijuana-medicine

At Porcaro Law, we stay up to date on the latest laws regarding cannabis. For more information about certifying patients for medical cannabis, please contact us.