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A Research Guide for Medical Cannabis in Your State

In June 2020, I began my journey with medical cannabis. It has been recommended by a physician for the treatment of chronic pain due to my rheumatoid arthritis.

It was honestly a very overwhelming process. I am hoping that my many hours of researching and personal experience will help any of you who might be thinking about medical cannabis. Please use my experience as a guide to help you through this very daunting process.

Understanding medical cannabis

Medical cannabis can provide a variety of benefits for your body and mind. It can help with the management of chronic pain and promotes a more positive overall well-being. For more detailed information please read my article titled, “Medical Cannabis for Chronic Pain Associated with Rheumatoid Arthritis”. It is very important to understand what medical cannabis is and how it works in our body.

Is medical cannabis decriminalized in my state?

Cannabis (recreational or medicinal) is illegal under federal law via the Controlled Substances Act.1 However, individual states are increasing the number of statutes approved by their state legislatures.

There is available information, like a map of cannabis legality by state.2 The site outlines by state the legal status for medicinal cannabis, if it is criminalized or decriminalized, and each state’s specific laws.

What is a qualifying condition?

It is important to understand that in order to qualify for medical cannabis, you must be diagnosed with an ailment that is on your state’s list of qualifying medical conditions. There are sites that provide, by state, a list of qualifying medical conditions.3 

Have the conversation with your provider

It is important to have a conversation about medical cannabis with your physician. I was referred to the medical cannabis clinic by my physician. Oftentimes, your practitioner will have to fill out the appropriate referral and paperwork for the medical cannabis clinic. In most states, you just cannot call the medical cannabis clinic for an appointment.

Cannabis state registry/medical cannabis card

Some states require that you apply to a state registry to obtain a medical cannabis card. There is oftentimes a fee associated with this. You use this card to purchase the approved medical cannabis at the designated dispensaries in your state. The link below has information on how to get a medical cannabis card according to the state you live in.4

Medical cannabis and the workplace

About 19 states have some protections for medical cannabis users. In those states, an employer cannot discriminate or fire an employee if they test positive for cannabis if they have a medical cannabis card. This allows off-duty medical cannabis use to be protected. An employer does have the right to fire an employee if they are under the influence, impaired, or using medical cannabis during work hours.

It is important to note that the law in those 19 states do not protect an employee from discrimination against medical cannabis use if the company is complying with federal requirements.5 The link provided will take you to state laws protecting medical cannabis user’s employment rights: State Laws Protecting Marijuana Users’ Employment Rights.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The RheumatoidArthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Wheeler JS, Hagemann TM. Medical marijuana in the United States: historical perspectives, legal considerations, and professional obligations of the pharmacist. J AM Coll Clin Pharm. 2018;1e9-e16.
  2. Map of Marijuana Legality By State: Wondering What The Law Is In Your State. Disa. https://disa.com/map-of-marijuana-legality-by-state . Last update July 2020.
  3. Qualifying Conditions For Medical Marijuana By State. Leafly. https://www.leafly.com/news/health/qualifying-conditions-for-medical-marijuana-by-state . Last update January 29, 2020.
  4. How To Get A Medical Marijuana Card by State. WayofLeaf. https://wayofleaf.com/mmj-cards/state/medical-marijuana-card-by-state. Last update April 24, 2020.
  5. Barreiro S. Off-Duty Marijuana Use: Can I Be Fired for Smoking Pot Legally? NOLO. https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/off-duty-marijuana-can-fired-smoking-pot-legally.html

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