For any patient interested in getting a medical marijuana card and making purchases at the dispensary, obtaining your physician recommendation is an important first step. Whether you have past experience treating your symptoms with marijuana or you’re considering this option for the first time, the doctor approval process is a step you’ll need to complete as part of your patient application. Fortunately, there are many physicians in the District actively approving patients for the medical marijuana program and the process is less challenging than you may think. We hope the following guide will answer your questions and get you started on the path to becoming a medical marijuana cardholder.
What is a Medical Marijuana Recommendation?
Before approaching your doctor, it’s important to understand what it is you’ll be requesting from them. Since medical marijuana is not a prescription drug, doctors cannot “prescribe” it to patients in a traditional sense as they would for common pharmaceutical medications. Instead, doctors may simply “recommend” medical marijuana to patients in cases where they believe its use could be beneficial. Legally, such recommendations are considered constitutionally protected free speech that occurs as part of the private relationship between doctor and patient.
Under D.C. law, licensed physicians as well as naturopathic physicians, advanced practice registered nurses, physician’s assistants, and dentists are permitted to approve patients for the medical marijuana program after registering with the Department of Public Health. Thus, when requesting a medical marijuana recommendation, you are simply asking your provider to assist you in signing up for a D.C.-licensed program.
Finding a Doctor
The decision of who to approach for assistance obtaining your recommendation will depend on your individual healthcare situation. If you have a primary care physician who is experienced with your medical history and current treatments, that’s a good place to start. Your primary care physician should be able to provide guidance specific to your health needs and may be willing to issue a recommendation for you. Please note that your doctor must be certified with the Department of Health in order to issue recommendations for the medical marijuana program. Health care providers can register with the program by following the instructions available here.
Many patients, however, either do not have a primary care physician or receive primary care from a provider that is unable or unwilling to issue medical marijuana recommendations. In this case, the best approach is to visit a specialist who is experienced with medical marijuana treatment. There are many providers in the District who are registered with the medical marijuana program and able to certify qualified patients. Feel free to contact us for assistance in finding the right option for you.
Discussing Medical Marijuana Treatment
Once you’ve made a decision about which provider to approach about obtaining your recommendation, you’ll want to think about how to effectively communicate your interest in the medical marijuana program. Here are a few tips for how to have the conversation:
- Be Honest: It’s important to speak frankly about your health situation and explain why you feel this treatment option makes sense for you. If you’ve had previous positive experiences using marijuana to treat your symptoms, it’s appropriate to share this information.
- Be Thorough: If you’re already undergoing treatment for your condition, it’s helpful to explain what’s worked for you and what has not. By assessing your treatment needs, progress, and long-term goals, they’ll be better able to understand why this additional therapy interests you and how it may be able to help.
- Be Well-informed: Some providers are more knowledgeable about medical marijuana treatment than others, so it’s always a good idea to show that you’ve done your research. Demonstrating that you’ve studied the science on how marijuana impacts your condition will show that you’re taking the issue seriously and may even persuade a reluctant provider to give this option a second look. It’s also helpful to understand the basics of medical marijuana in D.C. in case your doctor isn’t familiar with the program.
Above all, keep in mind that you’re one of many patients exploring medical marijuana treatment and there’s nothing unusual about raising this topic with your provider. The District has thousands of approved medical marijuana patients and more cards are issued every day. Our program is well-regulated and responsibly managed to maintain a continuing focus on protecting the health and wellbeing of all participants.
If your healthcare provider agrees to give you a recommendation for medical marijuana, then you’re well on your way to becoming an approved patient. Providers who are already registered to certify patients will simply need to submit your recommendation to the Department of Health. Providers who have not yet signed up with the program can do so by following these instructions.
Once your recommendation is submitted, you’ll need to complete a patient application. Our staff provides in-person assistance with patient applications and we’re happy to submit it to the Department of Health on your behalf. Feel free to contact us any time during business hours for assistance or stop by our Open House event each Saturday from 10-11am. We look forward to seeing you at the dispensary!