The medical marijuana market in the United States has grown exponentially, and still has a long way to go. There are 17 states where weed remains illegal, and in several of the most recent states to legalize the herb, the medical marijuana program remains a mess.
Even so, the number of MMJ patients increases by the day. In 2016, there were 641,000 in the U.S. By 2017; this figure had risen to 814,000 registered patients. With more states introducing programs, the number has surely exceeded one million at the time of writing.
There are a variety of reasons why you may want an MMJ card, and each state has its own list of qualifying conditions. Over 85% of license holders say they want treatment for an evidence-based condition. Over 60% said chronic pain was their reason for seeking medical weed.
The only way to get approved for an MMJ card is upon the recommendation of a licensed physician. The issue here is that a fair proportion of the medical industry are either unconvinced by weed’s therapeutic effects, or are flat out against it. As cannabis is a federally illegal substance, a doctor has no legal obligation to approve your application.
You could say they are living in the past as they continue to take weed’s place as a Schedule I drug (as part of the Controlled Substances Act) at face value. According to the CSA, cannabis has no recognized medical value and has a high potential for abuse. When you consider the litany of studies supporting weed’s medical value and realize that it is less addictive than everyday substances such as tobacco and caffeine, it seems a little crazy.
Why Would a Physician Reject an MMJ Card Application?
The Institute of Medicine of The National Academies estimates that 100 million Americans have pre-approved conditions that could be treated with medical marijuana. Lost productivity amongst employees with debilitating conditions costs the U.S. economy around $50 billion per annum.
Physicians are always trying to make life easier for patients, and many of them have recognized the potential of medical marijuana. These doctors are typically sympathetic to patients and have little hesitation in recommending them for a medical marijuana program if they feel it is appropriate.
However, not all of them have jumped aboard the bandwagon; and there are several reasons for this:
- Medical marijuana is not FDA approved. As such, doctors are often fearful of the loss of their medical license. According to the Hippocratic Oath, a physician pledges to ‘do no harm.’ Although there is research into the benefits of weed, there is not enough evidence to sway many doctors who rely on evidence from clinical trials. This fear of the unknown prevents them from recommending weed.
- Physicians usually need to apply to a state’s medical marijuana program. If you thought the process of getting an MMJ card was tedious, it is nothing compared to the avalanche of red tape doctors must navigate during this process. Then there is the small matter of assessments which are often exceedingly strict. Physicians that don’t truly believe in cannabis are unlikely to bother with this lengthy process.
- A doctor may refuse you because you have yet to establish a ‘bona fide’ doctor-patient relationship. This involves the physician thoroughly reviewing your medical records, conducting evaluations, and monitoring your condition when using the herb. Typically, you need to see the same doctor for at least 3-6 months to become eligible. Experienced physicians can spot an imposter a mile away.
- While marijuana is less addictive than many substances, some physicians slavishly adopt the ‘gateway drug’ ‘high risk of addiction’ mindset. As a result, they are concerned about the possibility of abuse or overdose.
- Physicians still have a lack of general knowledge about weed. It is not something they learn about in medical school! As a result, they genuinely don’t know if cannabis will prove useful, and will not take a risk with a patient’s health.
These days, it is extremely easy to apply for an MMJ card in some states, and remarkably tough in others. In California, for example, weed is recreationally legal, and you can complete the application online in under an hour. This service even includes an online video doctor’s evaluation!
Even so, there is no way to get an MMJ card without a doctor’s recommendation. If you are refused, don’t give up! Here are a few things you can do.
1 – Find a ‘Marijuana-Friendly’ Doctor
This is a LOT easier said than done depending on where you live. There are certain states where the number of doctors signed on to the state’s MMJ program is in the dozens rather than the hundreds! However, if a doctor has refused your application, there is little chance of changing their mind.
Your best bet is to perform an online search of doctors in your area known to recommend patients on MMJ programs. You may even come across information on weed-friendly doctors on forums. Even if your first port of call refuses to recommend you, it isn’t necessarily a wasted trip. Ask for a letter that outlines your condition and recommends medical treatment. This should save you a lot of time when you find a suitable physician.
2 – Ask for a Referral
If a doctor refuses to provide a recommendation, you can always ask for a referral. While the physician in question may feel uncomfortable recommending you for the program, they may refer you to a medical marijuana clinic for a follow-up consultation. This could happen if the doctor isn’t up to date on research into the herb. Please remember that staunchly anti-weed doctors will not give you a referral.
3 – Don’t Make the Same Mistake Twice
When it comes to gaining an MMJ card, knowledge is power. There is a chance that the doctor gives recommendations but simply didn’t think you were eligible. Make sure you know which conditions are eligible in your state. These vary according to where you live but could include:
- Crohn’s Disease
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Chronic Pain
- Nausea related to chemotherapy
- Terminal illness
It is also possible that you didn’t bring the right paperwork. During a consultation, a medical professional will discuss the reasons why cannabis is a viable treatment option. The doctor will ask about your medical history, and form an opinion based on that data, and what you say during the meeting.
It is easy to be rejected if you display a poor attitude. Do not walk into the practice assuming that you will get the approval. It is best if you believe that the doctor will show resistance to the idea. It is your goal to change their opinion.
4 – Visit a Dispensary for Information
Typically, you would only go to a dispensary to purchase high-quality marijuana once you have the MMJ card. However, you can chat with the budtender to learn more about the process. Perhaps they are aware of a marijuana-friendly physician, or else they can help you get in touch with one of their contacts.
Why would a dispensary help you in this manner? Think about it: If you get your card, you’re likely to return as a happy customer, which means more money for them!
5 – Go Online
A few years ago, being rejected for an MMJ recommendation was terrible news. You had to try and find another doctor in what was a slow and tiring process. If you have a debilitating condition which restricts movement, the last thing you need is a lengthy trek across your state to find a suitable doctor.
Thankfully, technology has come to the rescue. Companies such as Eaze and NuggMD have made it easier than ever to receive an MMJ application approval from a doctor. With NuggMD, for example, it costs just $39, and you can receive approval in minutes. The main downside is availability. You can only use Nugg in California, Nevada, and New York at present, for example.
Final Thoughts on MMJ Application Refusal
Unfortunately, the ease of getting an MMJ card depends on where you live. Even in the 33 states (plus D.C) where marijuana is accessible in some form, the quality of the state programs varies massively. If you’re lucky enough to live in California, approval is minutes away, and you don’t even need to leave your home!
In other states, however, if you aren’t struggling to find licensed dispensaries, you’ll find it a tall order to find a licensed physician ready to recommend you for the herb. While it is easy to be angry at these doctors for not providing you with what you need, you have to remember the reasons why it may be the case.
As long as marijuana is classified as a federally illegal substance, a certain percentage of doctors will never recommend it; no matter how liberal the state laws may be. Some physicians don’t know enough about weed and can’t in good conscience sign off on your application. Then there are others that plain hate marijuana!
No matter the reason for the refusal, there is no need to get upset or panic. If you live in a legal state, there is always going to be a doctor ready and willing to help you out. Don’t bother trying to convince the first physician because their mind is already made up. Instead, conduct thorough research online first to make sure you’re going through the right process, and then to find a physician more likely to say ‘yes.’
Recommended For You
Over the past couple of months we created a few practical guides, per state on how to get a medical marijuana card. We hope they help you
Illinois – Read the complete guide on How to Get a Medical Marijuana Card in Illinois
Florida – Read the complete guide on How to Get a Medical Marijuana Card In Florida
Ohio – Read the complete guide on How to Get a Medical Marijuana Card In Ohio
New York – Read the complete guide on How to Get a Medical Marijuana Card In New York
New Mexico – Read the complete guide on How to Get a Medical Marijuana Card In New Mexico
Nevada – Read the complete guide on How to Get a Medical Marijuana Card In Nevada