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What do Medical Marijuana Doctors do?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 05 December 2016
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Medical marijuana doctors are physicians who can help people receive state approval — in states where it is legal — to gain access to marijuana for medicinal use. These doctors are either MDs, or DOs (doctors of osteopathy), who have licenses to practice in their region, but they typically specialize in identifying conditions in patients for which medical marijuana has been found to be useful. They usually don’t prescribe or dispense marijuana, and people can’t just get it anywhere. Yet, medical marijuana doctors may provide medical backing that a person’s condition warrants marijuana use, and he or she helps in obtaining any types of registration cards that prove a person’s condition has been medically shown to benefit from marijuana.

The laws on medical marijuana are highly dependent on region, and in many places, particularly in the US, people don’t have access to this drug. Even with medical proof of need, they cannot use it. It gets more complicated because there are a few states that have approved use of medical marijuana, but federal laws still forbid it. Depending on the administration, the federal government may defer to states on this issue, stopping short of passing federal legislation legalizing medical marijuana use.

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In those states where medical marijuana doctors have a legitimate practice, there are many things these physicians can do. General physicians do not usually recommend marijuana, though they may recommend seeing a medical marijuana doctor. What this specialized doctor does is meet with patients interested in using the drug to explore their medical history. This could include a physical examination and diagnosis, but such doctors usually will not diagnose if a patient comes prepared with records from another physician.

Medical marijuana doctors may ask a series of questions to determine the degree to which it seems appropriate for marijuana to be used. When these are answered and the case is analyzed, the doctor makes a recommendation for or against marijuana use. This recommendation may be used to get a card that can then be used to obtain marijuana or to prove the right to possess it, provided federal agents do not arrest a person.

People can expect to spend an hour or two speaking with medical marijuana doctors, and these physicians usually are not covered by insurance payments. There are low cost clinics or sliding scale fees offered by some doctors, but many people will pay $100-200 US Dollars (USD) or more to obtain this consultation. Additionally, there may be need to register for a card yearly, which may involve more visits with the medical marijuana doctor. Marijuana is also typically not covered as a medicine under any insurance plan and may be expensive to purchase.

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