Cannabis Doctors: Experts in the Medical Marijuana FieldOur list of the best U.S. medical marijuana doctors, and everything you'll need to know before your first visit.
The increasing legalization of medical marijuana in the United States has brought comfort and relief to sufferers of many chronic health conditions. However, figuring out the most effective medical marijuana treatment plan is a unique challenge that varies from person to person.
Fortunately, a niche medical field has opened up to help – doctors specializing in cannabis-based medical treatment. In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about cannabis doctors: what they do, who they can help, what to expect from your first cannabis clinic visit, and how to find the best medical marijuana doctor for you
Why We Need Cannabis Doctors
If you live in a state with legal adult-use marijuana or have access to black-market weed, it may be tempting to DIY your medical marijuana treatment plan, based on the anecdotal advice of friends or internet success stories. But it’s almost always more effective to seek the advice of a good marijuana doctor.
Cannabis doctors have the advantage of specialized education and experience treating chronic conditions with cannabis. Marijuana affects the body holistically, so it’s crucial that your treatment plan and dosing strategy take into account factors such as concurrent health conditions, other prescribed medications, and your individual THC tolerance level.
Ensuring Safety and Marijuana Quality
If weed is only medicinally legal in your state, proper authorization from a cannabis doctor is advisable for your own legal protection. A doctor-issued medical marijuana certification (often called a medical marijuana card or MMJ card) permits you to possess, use, and (in some states) grow marijuana for medical purposes.
A medical marijuana card also allows you to buy weed from reputable dispensaries, ensuring steady access to the safest, highest-quality products possible, with consistent levels of THC, CBD, and terpenes.
Can I Get Medical Marijuana From my Regular Doctor?
Each state has its own rules regarding which types of doctors and other health care professionals may certify patients and recommend medical marijuana. Medical doctors (MDs), doctors of osteopathy (DOs), licensed naturopathic physicians, and even physician’s assistants and advanced practice registered nurses are among the designations allowed to recommend marijuana.
Some states require physicians to complete specific cannabis-related training before they can write recommendations for it, while a license to practice medicine is the only requirement in other states.
These often loose requirements mean that many physicians are treating MMJ patients, despite a lack of cannabis medicine expertise. Conversely, some health care professionals are outright unwilling to write cannabis recommendations due to their personal bias against it.
Regardless of your primary care doctor’s level of marijuana expertise or comfortability, for the sake of transparency in your medical care, you should inform him or her about your intent to use medical marijuana. If your doctor isn’t well-versed in cannabis medicine, they may refer you to a local marijuana doctor.
What are Marijuana Doctors Qualified to Do?
MMJ Patient Certification
Cannabis doctors are authorized to approve patients for state-issued medical marijuana certifications (MMJ cards). A medical marijuana card entitles you to legally use, possess, and purchase marijuana at licensed dispensaries.
However, there are maximum possession limits (these vary by state), even with medical approval. The certification process involves an assessment to determine whether medical marijuana is an appropriate treatment option for you.
However, it is important to note that despite being licensed medical professionals, physicians are not permitted to formally diagnose medical conditions within a 420 doctor’s practice.
Recommendation of Treatment
Once you’ve been approved as a medical marijuana patient, your cannabis doctor will prescribe a treatment plan, including the recommended strain, delivery method, and dosing schedule. Despite the commonly-used term, this is not a true medical prescription.
Because marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I illegal substance at the federal level, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) does not consider it a prescribable medication. This also means that health insurance will not cover medical marijuana or cannabis doctor visits.
Cannabis doctors and CBD
A marijuana doctor may informally suggest using cannabis-derived CBD (cannabidiol) products to supplement your medical marijuana treatment plan. However, since CBD products containing less than .03% THC are widely and legally available over the counter (or by mail-order), you do not need approval or paperwork from a cannabis doctor to obtain and use CBD medicinally.
Who Should Consult a Marijuana Dr.?
At this point in time, each legal state has a list of medical conditions approved for medical marijuana treatment. Approved conditions vary considerably by state, but most include cancer, epilepsy and/or other seizure disorders, chronic pain, and HIV/AIDS. Other commonly approved conditions include PTSD, Parkinson’s Disease, Crohn’s Disease, glaucoma, cachexia, and hepatitis C, among others.
If you have a diagnosis of one of these or another chronic condition, a visit to a cannabis doctor will help you determine whether medical marijuana is the right treatment choice for you. Common reasons for seeking medical marijuana treatment include symptoms that haven’t responded well to conventional medical treatment, and the desire to manage symptoms in as natural and holistic a manner as possible.
It’s worth noting that most states have rules requiring an established doctor-patient relationship prior to medical marijuana certification. In some states, an introductory exam at a marijuana clinic is sufficient to satisfy this requirement, but in others, it may be essential to develop a months-long record of care first.
What to Expect From Your First Cannabis Clinic Appointment
The dual purpose of your first appointment with a cannabis doctor is confirming the presence of a qualifying health condition and getting you set up with the proper treatment. The marijuana clinic will ask you to bring copies of your medical records (or have your primary care physician send them over), and a list of any supplements or medications you’re taking. Your cannabis doctor will ask about your symptoms and current treatment methods.
If you’re approved as a medical marijuana patient, you’ll be entered into your state’s patient registry (the process varies by state). The next step is receipt of your certification (medical marijuana card), This is typically handled by your state’s health department, not your doctor.
You’ll be given a recommended treatment protocol, and once you’ve received your MMJ card (or other permitted proof of certification), you’ll be ready to visit a local dispensary to pick up your weed.
Most of the time, follow-up appointments are scheduled only as needed. You will need to come back for a reassessment every 6-12 months (the timeframe varies by state) to evaluate your treatment plan and ensure you still qualify for medical marijuana certification. Some states allow completion of your certification assessment virtually, but most require completion of this assessment in person.
How to Find the Right Cannabis Doctor
All it takes is a simple internet search to see that the new and popular field of cannabis medicine is flooded with professionals authorized to recommend cannabis. This can certainly make your search for the right 420 doctor feel daunting.
To get a feel for a marijuana doctor’s level of experience and expertise, the following questions are worth asking:
- How long have you been working with cannabis patients?
- Which cannabis education or certification programs have you completed?
- What is your medical background beyond cannabis medicine?
- How much experience do you have treating (specific condition) with cannabis?
And, of course, personal rapport with your cannabis doctor makes a significant difference in your quality of care. It’s important to choose a doctor with whom you feel comfortable candidly discussing your symptoms, concerns, and experience using medical marijuana.
Our Recommended Marijuana Doctors
Are you interested in medical marijuana treatment for your own chronic health issues but don’t know where to begin? To make your search easier, we’ve listed a few of our favorite and most trusted cannabis doctors below.
Marijuana Doctors Servicing Florida
With a focus on patient education and compassionate care, CannaMD helps full-time and seasonal Florida residents get the medical marijuana treatment they need. CannaMD makes every effort to streamline and the MMJ card pre-qualification process and walk patients through, allowing more time for a one-on-one consultation with its board-certified physicians. CannaMD currently has sixteen locations throughout the state of Florida and accepts payment by debit or credit card only.
Marijuana Doctors Servicing Illinois
The Healing Clinic is dedicated to providing medical marijuana patients with safe, compassionate care. Each patient works with an advocate to assist with the application process and serve as a doctor-patient liaison. Alongside cannabis recommendation, The Healing Clinic offers complementary treatment modalities including naturopathic medicine, nutritional counseling, craniosacral therapy, and reiki/light touch therapy. Headquartered in Lakeview, Chicago, The Healing Clinic also has locations in Highland Park and Flossmoor.
Marijuana Doctors Servicing Ohio
Located in Columbus, Ohio Herbal Clinic has helped thousands of patients since opening in 2018. Founder, owner, and medical director, Dr. Joel Simmons, M.D. has a background in oncology and was one of Ohio’s very first cannabis doctors. Ohio Herbal Clinic offers the option to complete medical marijuana assessments via video chat, and also offers assessments for undiagnosed PTSD cases. Ohio Herbal Clinic currently accepts payment via credit or debit card only.
Marijuana Doctors Servicing Oklahoma
Green Hope Wellness assists patients with medical marijuana recommendations at their clinic in Moore, Oklahoma, and via telehealth, for patients in Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Missouri – with plans to expand into more states. Green Hope has even launched an innovative Cannabis Tracker mobile app, giving patients the option to manage their marijuana usage and home-based crops with the help of a dedicated Cannabis Health Coach, via a HIPPA-compliant text and video feature. Renee Harper, RN, also regularly hosts free cannabis education classes at the clinic.