What is a Marijuana Doctor?
The health benefits of marijuana are somewhat new to the medical community. One of the most recent developments in cannabis research is that marijuana contains compounds that might help kill certain cancers. The effects of smoking cannabis on the brain have been shown to reduce nausea in patients undergoing cancer treatments like chemotherapy, and there have been positive results in using marijuana to reduce frequency of seizures in epilepsy and eliminate tremors in Parkinson’s Disease.
The legal controversy over the use of marijuana, however, continues. While it remains against federal law, many states have decriminalized the use of cannabis for medical purposes and permitted marijuana dispensaries. Since recommending marijuana for patients who need it could put doctors in a difficult legal and ethical dilemma, many still avoid the substance.
Marijuana doctors, though, see the potential benefits to their patients and are willing to navigate uncharted legal areas to provide the best treatment possible. They not only understand the medical implications of marijuana treatment, but the legal aspects as well. By following state laws and keeping up with frequent changes, these doctors make it possible for sick patients to get the relief they need.
Medical Cannabis Doctor Qualifications
A marijuana doctor is a physician with all of the rights and privileges to practice in your state. They may have a specific specialty like oncology, or they may be a general practitioner. A marijuana doctor is experienced in medical practice and is no different from the other doctors you see — except they are willing and qualified to recommend medical marijuana.
Just like with any other drug, doctors who recommend marijuana are required by their profession to research its proven uses and be aware of any side effects it can cause. A doctor who is cavalier in recommending any controlled substance is potentially risking their patient’s health and their license to practice medicine.
There are several sources doctors could use to prepare themselves for recommending marijuana treatment. Like with any other medical treatment, professional medical organizations set standards for their members to adhere to. The Western Journal of Medicine published a number of recommendations for doctors who recommend medical marijuana, including:
- Examine patients who use a smoked marijuana treatment for pulmonary function and immune status
- Comply with any and all state initiatives to track marijuana sources and patients using it for medical purposes
- Know the patient’s marijuana and other drug use history, including addiction
- Counsel the patient on the risks of medical marijuana, both short-term and long-term
- Obtain training or certification in addiction medicine
- Review uses and dosing recommendations
- Confirm that other methods of treatment were tried and failed
- Be sure the marijuana sourced contains standard THC levels and no contaminants
The Federation of State Medical Boards published a similar list of guidelines for physicians in 2016. Their recommendations also included the following:
- A doctor who recommends cannabis should not hold any financial interest in a company that cultivates or dispenses marijuana, and their office should not be located in proximity to such a facility.
- For a patient with substance abuse or mental health issues, the treating doctor should consult with a specialist in pain management or psychiatry before developing a treatment plan to include marijuana
- The doctor should maintain a written treatment plan that includes all of the patient’s pertinent medical history, results of periodic follow-ups, proof of consent to treat, notes from consulting specialists and an ongoing treatment plan for 12 months or less of marijuana treatment.
Marijuana doctors should understand that their case notes may become valuable for continuing research into the efficacy of marijuana for specific conditions. It will help them, their patients and the whole medical community to keep accurate and detailed notes as the marijuana treatment progresses.
How to Avoid Fraud
When you need a recommendation for medical marijuana, you do not want to get caught up in any legal entanglements. You just want to find a doctor who is willing to assess your case and recommend what you need, and a legitimate dispensary where you can obtain good quality weed.
Because this legitimate industry is somewhat new, there are a lot of people hoping to cash in. Marijuana has been a very popular recreational drug for decades with its own underground cultivation and distribution system. You want to avoid fraudulent transactions in your quest for medical marijuana.
Here are some tips for getting your medical marijuana without any hassles:
- Referrals — If you know someone who is using medical marijuana, that would be a good place to start. A trusted friend can tell you what doctor they get their recommendation from and what their experience is like. They may even have a horror story about trying to purchase medical marijuana in the wrong place and can tell you dispensaries to avoid.
- Don’t blame your doctor — Some doctors are not willing to recommend medical marijuana for a number of legitimate reasons. If your doctor is unsure of how to proceed with this type of treatment, it doesn’t make them a bad doctor. They are doing what they believe to be right for the health of their patients and the future of their medical practice. You can still see your regular doctor while you consult a marijuana doctor for alternative treatment.
- Find the right doctor for you — There are plenty of doctors who are experienced in using marijuana to treat patients, and they are comfortable recommending cannabis. You can find a marijuana doctor in your area at DocMJ. From your first appointment, start to develop a relationship so you feel comfortable with the doctor and their plan of treatment for you. Be open and honest with your marijuana doctor about what your needs are and how the recommended treatment is helping. The right marijuana doctor will want to monitor your progress throughout the course of treatment and make any adjustments necessary along the way.
Doctors in Florida need to meet certain requirements before they can recommend medical marijuana. You should be aware of these regulations, so you can be sure the doctor you establish a relationship with meets all of the qualifications.
Florida law requires marijuana doctors to:
- Determine the potential risks of marijuana treatment to the patient are reasonable compared with the possible benefits
- Establish a treatment relationship with the patient of at least three months before giving a cannabis recommendation
- Maintain a treatment plan for the patient that includes the form and dose of cannabis, duration of intended treatment and follow-up documentation of symptoms and reaction to the treatment
Additionally, in Florida medical marijuana recommendations expire every 45 days. This means that a medical marijuana approved physician must renew their recommendations in the database every 45 days for their patients.
Your awareness of the restrictions imposed on marijuana recommendations by the state of Florida will protect you from fraudulent transactions with doctors who are not qualified to recommend marijuana or who might be operating outside of the legal restrictions.
Getting a Weed Doctor in Florida
The procedure for obtaining medical marijuana is similar in most jurisdictions where it is allowed. You need a recommendation from a doctor in order to be added to the database Florida has setup. Then, you have to go to an approved dispensary that will only sell marijuana to those that have been added to the database by a doctor.
In the state of Florida, in 2015, there were five organizations approved to dispense cannabis for legal medical purposes:
- Knox Nursery, Inc.
- Alpha Foliage, Inc.
- Chestnut Hill Tree Farm, LLC
- Hackney Nursery Company
- Costa Nursery Farms, LLC
These dispensaries are scattered throughout the state to service each region.
Florida also has specific requirement of patients. Not everyone in Florida is eligible for a marijuana recommendation. Patients must meet these criteria:
- Tried other methods of treatment with no success
- Allows doctors recommending medical marijuana to register patient in the Compassionate Use Registry
- Agreement of two doctors for marijuana if under the age of 18
- Permanent Florida resident status
- Doctor’s treatment plan submitted to University of Florida quarterly for research project
- Benefits must outweigh risks as determined by doctor
Visiting a weed doctor is just like an office visit with any other medical professional. Privacy laws apply to your marijuana doctor the same way they apply to any healthcare professional. What you discuss with your marijuana doctor is confidential. Your written permission is required for them to share the notes from your visit with any of your other medical providers.
If your medical marijuana doctor determines that marijuana is the right treatment for you, they will document this recommendations. They are most likely to recommend a smokeless form of marijuana. Smoking releases harmful toxins into the air. Instead, a vaporized delivery system ensures that you get the benefits of the marijuana without any harmful smoke.
Edibles are another common smokeless form of marijuana. They can deliver a more concentrated dose of marijuana, though, so you should be careful. Most doctors do not recommend edibles for first time users because they are so potent.
Marijuana can also be consumed in a tea, although this delivery system is less accurate in terms of dosage. Any form of marijuana that is swallowed can have an increased potency because it has to pass through the digestive system.
You can discuss all of these alternatives with your marijuana doctor. They may have particular reasons for recommending some and avoiding others. It is always a good idea to ask questions and be sure you fully understand his recommendations.
With the recommendation your doctor gives you, you will be added to the database the state of Florida has setup for medical marijuana. You do not need a cannabis card to get medical marijuana in the state of Florida. Once you have been added to the database, you will be able to purchase weed from an approved dispensary. The medical marijuana that is available legally in the state of Florida is non-intoxicating.
The Compassionate Use Registry
The state of Florida set up a database to keep track of the use of medical marijuana for legal and research purposes. The Compassionate Use Registry is designed to eliminate any potential abuse of the medical marijuana laws. It also allows the state to track the number of doctors and patients participating in medical marijuana treatment.
The Registry includes the names of all doctors who are recommending marijuana for their patients. Florida doctors have to take an eight-hour online course that requires a $1,000 registration fee before they can register as marijuana doctors. The course is administered by the state.
The Compassionate Use Registry also contains the names of patients who are qualified under state law to use marijuana treatment. Doctors who recommend medical marijuana must register their patients.
The Registry also keeps track of marijuana dispensaries to be sure they are complying with potency and dispensing guidelines as well. Each dispensary must apply to the state to become part of the legal marijuana program. They can only dispense medical marijuana after their application has been approved.
Access to the Registry is restricted to physicians who recommend marijuana, so they can enter and update information on their patients. Organizations dispensing marijuana, which have been strictly licensed by the state, also have access to the Registry to confirm doctors’ orders for cannabis for their patients. Law enforcement is also able to access the Registry to confirm legal compliance by all parties involved.
Finding a Marijuana Doctor
When you are in pain, nothing is easy, least of all finding a marijuana doctor. It can be discouraging to have your request for marijuana treatment denied by your current doctor, and you may even find it difficult to ask for this alternative treatment because of the stigma it carries in many parts of our society.
At DocMJ, we make it easy for you to get through the application and approval process. You can check your qualifications for medical marijuana right on our website in about five minutes. If you have any questions, you can video chat with one of our medical professionals to get a better understanding of the process and what is required from you.
DocMJ will refer you to a qualified marijuana doctor and help you establish the needed three-month treatment relationship. We have access to a database of experienced marijuana doctors all across Florida, including some near you. We can assist you in getting the treatment you need from the right doctor and a legal dispensary of cannabis products.
Contact DocMJ to set up an appointment today and take the anxiety out of finding a marijuana doctor. Let us make it easy for you to get the treatment you need in the state of Florida.