Medical Marijuana Laws
Two-thirds of the United States have legalized medical marijuana to some degree. Despite federal law and the continuous cannabis prohibition, medical cannabis seems to be here to stay. Recently, the FDA approved a CBD drug for epilepsy, and many doctors support ongoing cannabis research and medicinal weed use for patients with qualifying conditions.
Medical Cannabis Benefits
Medical cannabis products can be used to treat a variety of diseases and conditions:
- Epilepsy and seizures
- Cancer-related symptoms
- Chronic Pain
- Muscle Relaxant
- Anxiety and Depression
It can be used in many different ways:
Potential Risks of Medicinal Weed
We recommend that you consult your physician before considering medical marijuana for you. Medical supervision, as well as medical expertise, should always be sought before trying a new substance.
Medical weed, especially at high doses can cause:
- Increased heart rate
- Cannabis use disorder and withdrawal symptoms
- Impaired concentration and memory
- Slower reaction times
- Negative drug-to-drug interactions
- Increased risk of heart attack and stroke
- Increased appetite
- Potential for physical or psychological dependence
- Hallucinations or mental illness
The Rise of Marijuana Legalization
Even with growing support, medical and recreational marijuana is still illegal under federal law. The federal government has not yet taken any action to legalize cannabis, but it is possible in the future. Despite the legal status, many people use marijuana for both medical and recreational purposes. A recent Gallup poll shows that 55% of Americans support legalizing recreational use, up from 16% in 1969.
FDA Approval of CBD
The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of prescription-strength CBD in the form of the drug Epidiolex associated with two rare and severe forms of epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. The drug can be used in patients two years of age and older. Epidolex is the first FDA-approved drug with a purified substance derived from marijuana.
States with Medical Marijuana Programs
Thirty-seven states allow the use of medical marijuana to some degree. Whether that be low-THC products, CBD, hemp, or all medical marijuana products, most of the U.S. is now in support of medicinal cannabis reform.
Medical marijuanas states that have been legalized are adding dispensaries at an exponentially fast rate. So if you’re in a medically legal state, you’re likely to find a dispensary or office close to your area that offers medical marijuana cards.
|State||Legalization Status||Adult Use||Medical Marijuana||Decriminalized|
|Delaware||Decriminalized & Medical|
|Hawaii||Decriminalized & Medical|
|Louisiana||Decriminalized & Medical|
|Maryland||Decriminalized & Medical|
|Minnesota||Decriminalized & Medical|
|Missouri||Decriminalized & Medical|
|New Hampshire||Decriminalized & Medical|
|New Jersey||Fully Legal|
|New Mexico||Fully Legal|
|New York||Fully Legal|
|North Dakota||Decriminalized & Medical|
|Ohio||Decriminalized & Medical|
|Rhode Island||Decriminalized & Medical|
|South Dakota||Medical||Some Areas|
|Washington, DC||Fully Legal|
Common Qualifying Conditions
Getting your MMJ card can be relatively straightforward; we recommend using a service like Leafy DOC to connect you with a reasonable and prudent physician. Health research has come a long way to confirm that medical cannabis is effective for several conditions. Many healthcare providers and knowledgeable dispensary workers can help guide you.
Research for the use of cannabis in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease is still ongoing. Typically, it’s used for mood and anxiety or to treat agitation and aggression in some patients. While there is currently no known cure for Alzheimer’s, researchers hope that the use of cannabis can continue to at least manage some of the many symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
In addition, high levels of THC may not be beneficial for those with severe forms or already having difficulty with memory and recall, so it must be administered cautiously.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
While ALS is another devastating disease with no current cure, physicians see medical marijuana as a means of increasing an ALS patient’s quality of life. Significant symptoms of ALS include muscle spasms and shaking, which can be subdued by the effects of marijuana.
ALS patients sometimes also suffer chronic pain, which can be relieved by cannabinoids like CBD. According to the Journal of Addiction Medicine, some patients prefer CBD over traditional painkillers because those painkillers may cause damage to the liver and often are debilitatingly addictive.
HIV/AIDS, like other chronic conditions, comes with nausea and appetite loss. It can sometimes inflict neuropathic pain, which is why medical cannabis is prescribed for HIV/AIDS patients. This is especially useful because HIV/AIDS can cause chronic weight loss, also known as wasting. So while CBD helps with pain relief, THC has been shown to stimulate the appetite. At the same time, THC in marijuana can disorientate newcomers to the effects of the medicine.
It’s important to note that smoking cannabis or intaking any foreign particulates into the lungs is a risk to anyone with a compromised immune system. This explains why many HIV/AIDS patients elect for edible cannabis or topical solutions.
While medical marijuana has not been shown to reduce inflammation or reduce disease activity of Crohn’s disease, it’s been shown to reduce (you guessed it) nausea and appetite loss. Scientists must do more research about medical marijuana and Crohn’s, but for the time being, patients seem to utilize the medicine to help them eat.
Epilepsy and seizures
Strains rich in CBD, rather than THC, appear to do wonders for those with epilepsy and seizures. Epidiolex, a purified version of CBD, was approved by the food and drug administration (FDA) in 2018 to treat patients with Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.
These conditions are both rare and cause early-onset epilepsy in children. Some of these even cause treatment-resistant epilepsy, which has stumped physicians for years. However, studies have shown that Epidiolex reduced seizures by almost 50%, which is extremely promising for those suffering from these disorders, especially severe forms.
Glaucoma is not one but a series of eye conditions due to nerve damage from increased pressure called intraocular pressure. While cannabis may reduce pressure caused by glaucoma, keeping up with the pain is challenging since the pressure can occur 24/7.
This means that high levels of both THC and CBD would need to be ingested to keep up with symptoms. At this rate, cannabis may do more harm than good, especially for other body parts, such as the lungs, if constantly smoked. So while THC-rich cannabis may temporarily reduce eye pressure, it would not be the most suitable treatment for those with chronic and constant symptoms.
Multiple sclerosis and muscle spasms
Like seizure disorders and ALS, multiple sclerosis (M.S.) can cause debilitating muscle spasms and shakes all over the body. Cannabis can reduce these spasms or stiffness, at least anecdotally, in patients that already use medical marijuana. Generally, results are mixed across the board to treat M.S.’s symptoms, and there is currently no FDA-approved treatment.
Mainly, more evidence-based testing occurs with methods like topical solutions rather than ingested or smoked with multiple sclerosis. Hopefully, more research on medical marijuana can help identify compounds or chemicals that may alleviate symptoms of this complex disease.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
PTSD is a chronic condition that can cause nightmares, panic attacks, insomnia, and intensely self-destructive behavior. Medical marijuana use can work incredibly effectively as a nighttime aid since it’s anecdotally known to prevent intense dreams and nightmares.
Researchers have also found that THC reduces activity in the part of the brain that deals with perceived dangers. Accepted medical use of cannabis has become prevalent among veterans due to the opioid epidemic.
Severe or Chronic pain
Of all the conditions that people suffer from, medical cannabis is most popular among those with severe and chronic pain. Surveys have shown excellent efficacy in treating chronic pain with medical cannabis and are especially lauded as an alternative to other drugs from the opiate family.
This is because some painkillers are designed to manage short-term pain and can be highly addictive. Patients have found that constant use of marijuana, while not always recommended, is preferred to continuous usage of opiates or more aggressive pain medication.
Many patients also preferred smoking cannabis for chronic pain instead of topicals or edibles. The more local the pain, the better topicals seem to work. If not localized and the pain is more general, smoking or vaping cannabis may be the better route. In addition, smoking or vaping can spur a quicker onset in absorption, meaning faster results.
According to the National Cancer Institute, cancer chemotherapy, like other intense cancer treatments, can cause significant nausea and vomiting. But appetite improvement and anti-nausea benefits are not all that can be gleaned from medical marijuana. Some patients also use smoked cannabis for pain management and neuropathy from cancer treatments.
However, most medical cannabis and cancer studies revolve around orally ingested CBD. More research will be done into THC-packed strains and their effects on cancer chemotherapy patients. As for nausea and vomiting, it’s been proven time and time again that medical cannabis helps.
How to Get a Medical Cannabis Card
While every city and state jurisdiction may handle laws and regulations differently, most legal medical marijuana states have a similar process for applying for an MMJ card. Some states’ legalization laws include all consumption methods and types of weed, while others may only approve tinctures and topical use.
Many states have legalized edibles; some have legalized smoking and vaping flower. It all depends on your location, so it’s best to know before going. Leafy Doc can assist with finding medical cannabis information as well as booking an appointment in certain states.
Applying for a Medical Marijuana Card usually contains similar steps for each city and state. Typically, the process goes something like this:
- Be sure you are considered a resident of the state you are applying to and have proof of residency.
- Meet with a licensed medical marijuana doctor and gain a diagnosis for your state’s qualifying conditions. The conditions vary nationwide.
- Once you have a diagnosis, you will likely register with the state.
- Then, pay a fee and apply for your medical marijuana card
- If approved, you will receive it in the mail.
- Now, you can purchase cannabis products at any medical dispensary in your city.
- Be prepared to renew and pay a renewal fee annually.
Benefits of MMJ Card in Legal States
Since Colorado legalized cannabis in 2012, more and more states are decriminalizing marijuana at the very least. Some states have legalized it medically, while others have legalized adult-use cannabis and established a marijuana regulation program. In many areas, having an MMJ card has its benefits.
Adults ages 21 and older with identification can legally purchase cannabis from licensed dispensaries when the state has legalized recreational weed. They typically restrict purchases to valid patients ages 21 and up, depending on the state’s medical-marijuana program.
However, some programs allow patients ages 18 and up, minors with qualifying conditions, and a guardian’s permission.
Qualifying patients must also renew their physician’s authorization annually to maintain a valid medical marijuana card, although it does vary depending on the state’s medical program.
Recreational cannabis customers are limited by the amount they can get at once, the total amount of marijuana they may purchase in a given amount of time, and where they can store it. Medical marijuana patients also have limits to the amount of cannabis they can purchase, although many states allow medical patients to buy and possess more cannabis than adult-use consumers.
Some states allow the home cultivation of a certain number of cannabis plants for any adult, while others allow it just for medical marijuana patients. Even those that don’t, many states will make an exception for MMJ patients that live far from a dispensary. It’s best to check local laws.
Tax Breaks and Potency
Medical cannabis patients are often exempt from paying additional taxes on cannabis products within the recreational industry. Also, medical consumers tend to receive better quality and more potent effects than adult-use marketplaces.
Out-of-State Medical Marijuana Reciprocity Laws
Medical marijuana laws vary significantly from state to state. These laws usually include using low THC products and removing criminal penalties for Medical cannabis patient cardholders. Certain states will allow out-of-state patients to purchase and possess certain amounts of cannabis, however, it does vary greatly by location and their established medical marijuana program.
A few that have reciprocity programs are:
- New Hampshire
- New Mexico
- Puerto Rico
- Rhode Island
- Washington, DC
Finding a Cannabis Dispensary near you
In many legal states, you can walk into a licensed dispensary in your city to purchase medical and recreational cannabis products. If you need some help searching for local or online legal weed, Leafy Mate can help. Our mission is to offer unlimited simple, adequate access to cannabis dispensaries in many locations.
Simply click “Explore” and then “Explore Dispensaries” to search for your favorite medical marijuana dispensaries, navigate through information on their cannabis products and even find out where and how you can order them.
At Leafy Mate, we’re committed to providing a place for cannabis users to connect with leading cannabis doctors, as well as newly-established offices that we know you’ll love. We offer a site map with all of the top doctors that can provide you with a medical marijuana card in legal states. We’ve got you covered when it comes to cannabis patient and doctor connections.
Our goal is to educate, connect, and assist our customers with all hemp and marijuana-related things. Whether you’re looking to talk with a cannabis professional about symptom relief or to schedule an appointment for your medical card, at Leafy Mate, we’ve taken out the guesswork and made the process simple and effective.
Learn More about Medical Cannabis Laws
Below we have included additional resources, including news and activism websites for decriminalizing cannabis, as well as medical cannabis legislation efforts in the United States where medical marijuana remains illegal.