Cannabis 101: The Medical Marijuana Card, Demystified

Cannabis 101: The Medical Marijuana Card, Demystified

by Lainey Sidell

This article originally appeared in the third issue of MedMen's new quarterly magazine, Ember, created in collaboration with PAPER. MedMen is a California-based cannabis company and investment firm with properties spanning coast to coast.

The slow but steady repeal of marijuana prohibition on a state level in the US means we now have the unprecedented ability to obtain marijuana — both for medical and recreational purposes. But not all roads to accessing the demonstrably powerful substance are identical journeys. To combat this truism, we've broken down the process in a way that's easy for all potential patients — whether newcomers or veterans of the green gang — to demystify the process behind getting medical marijuana in New York State. While procedures for obtaining a card vary by state, New York's offer a glimpse into the nationwide gist.

Wherever you reside, it's advisable to start out with a healthy dose of patience! For instance, at the outset it's most expeditious to schedule an appointment with a Department of Health–registered medical marijuana practitioner. While it's perfectly reasonable to start a conversation about medical marijuana with your go-to medical health professional, chances are they may not be as up to speed on the ins and outs of legalities and best uses, which is why, for the time being, seeing a licensed medical marijuana doctor to register for the card makes the most sense. Still, given the heavy level of current demand, that initial appointment may take 30 days or more to get on the books; plan ahead!

Eligibility is then determined on a case-by-case basis, and the severity of the illnesses that warrant such usage is just as critical — if not more so — in obtaining certification than the mere presence of the illnesses themselves. Qualifying illnesses, per the DOH, include:

1) cancer 2) HIV infection or AIDS 3) amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) 4) Parkinson's disease 5) multiple sclerosis 6) spinal cord injury with spasticity 7) epilepsy 8) inflammatory bowel disease 9) neuropathy 10) Huntington's disease 11) post-traumatic stress disorder or chronic pain (as defined by 10 NYCRR §1004.2(a)(8)(xi)), or any condition for which an opioid could be prescribed (provided that the precise underlying condition is expressly stated on the patient's certification). 12) The severe debilitating or life threatening condition must also be accompanied by one or more of the following associated or complicating conditions: cachexia or wasting syndrome, severe or chronic pain, severe nausea, seizures, or severe or persistent muscle spasms, PTSD or opioid use disorder (only if enrolled in a treatment program certified pursuant to Article 32 of the Mental Hygiene Law).

Once certification is approved for a card, the patient must then register online in order to receive it by mail. Good news: from the moment the card arrives, the entire experience becomes imminently and infinitely more approachable. Dispensaries such as MedMen and Columbia Care are eager to dole out resources, including information on certified providers in one's vicinity, explainers on the mediums that may be best for any given patient, and pharmacists on hand to predetermine if strains could negatively affect one's existing medication regimen, all of which are designed to simplify assistance for patients seeking methods of pain relief alternative to those produced by pharmaceutical companies.

Ready to register? Here's a quick snapshot of need-to-know New York steps:

● Contact a DOH-registered practitioner to see if one's ailments warrant the use of medical marijuana

● Obtain a certification from said practitioner that recommends one's candidacy for NY State's medical marijuana program

● Register online; pending the approval of their application, the patient will receive their card via mail

● Once the patient receives their card, they can purchase products from one of the state's 22 registered dispensary locations

Photography: Sergiy Barchuk