The Medical Cannabis Card: A License to Buy and Possess

It’s not unusual to hear people speak of prescription medical cannabis. But medical cannabis is not a prescription medication. In fact, patients do not get prescriptions they can take to the pharmacy. They get medical cannabis cards instead. A medical cannabis card is merely a license to buy and possess cannabis – nothing more, and nothing less.

Some states with active cannabis laws in place allow both medical and recreational consumption. Curiously, most of them also maintain separate medical cannabis card programs despite the fact that patience could more easily go buy recreational marijuana instead.

Other states allow medical cannabis but not recreational marijuana. Their medical cannabis card programs are designed to ensure that only qualified patients have access to cannabis within their borders. This underscores the idea that a medical cannabis card is a license to purchase and possess a substance still off limits to those without cards.

Qualifying Conditions Apply

To my knowledge, every state that allows medical cannabis attaches qualifying conditions. This is to say that not anyone and everyone who wants to use medical cannabis can legally do so. In order to obtain a card, a patient has to be diagnosed with a qualifying condition found on the state’s list.

Take Utah. It has one of the best medical cannabis laws in the country. There are more than a dozen qualifying conditions on Utah’s list. They include:

  • Chronic and acute pain.
  • Persistent nausea.
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • Seizure-related disorders, like epilepsy.

Cancer is also on Utah’s list. Cancer patients often use medical cannabis to alleviate the symptoms of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Medical cannabis can also relieve the pain associated with cancer itself.

No Card, No Purchase

The Beehive Farmacy in Brigham City is one of 15 pharmacies licensed by the state of Utah. No consumer can walk into a medical cannabis pharmacy to make a purchase without holding a valid card. Beehive and its competitors must validate medical cannabis cards before making a sale. No card means no purchase.

Making sure that everything stays on the up and up is an electronic verification system (EVS) that is maintained with up-to-date information. Every Utah medical cannabis pharmacy has instant access to the EVS. Likewise for law enforcement who might encounter individuals whose possession of medical cannabis is questioned.

That is where the possession idea comes into play. Valid card holders in Utah are allowed to possess a certain amount of medical cannabis at any one time. If a patient were to be pulled over and subjected to a vehicle inspection, he would need to produce his card to demonstrate a legal right to possess. But if he possesses more than is legally allowed, he’s got a problem.

Instructions Not Included

It’s important to remember that a medical cannabis card does not come with any instructions in terms of dosage, delivery method, and frequency. It’s up to patients to work things out with their medical providers. After the fact, patients work with their pharmacists to determine the best cannabis products and dosage. Patients oftentimes need to experiment over many months to figure out what works best for them.

As far as obtaining a medical cannabis card, it’s pretty easy in most states. A qualifying condition and a visit to a medical provider usually does the trick. Nonetheless, a medical cannabis card is not a prescription. It’s not a guide or a set of instructions. A medical cannabis card is nothing more than a license to purchase and possess cannabis. It is a license that can be revoked as easily as it is issued.

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