By Kate A. Miner EVERCANNABIS Correspondent
“Can I get medical marijuana for (BLANK)?”
You may have wondered this question to yourself, and even thought to ask it of your primary care physician at your last check-up. But even medical professionals are sometimes uncertain about all the laws and rules associated with medical marijuana.
In Washington, those with specific terminal or debilitating medical conditions may, under their healthcare practitioner’s care, benefit from the use of marijuana. A “terminal or debilitating medical condition,” means a condition severe enough to significantly interfere with daily living and one’s ability to function.
The following conditions are recognized by Washington state as “qualifying conditions” for medical marijuana patients:
• Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
• Multiple sclerosis
• Epilepsy or other seizure disorder, or spasticity disorders
• Glaucoma, either acute or chronic
• Crohn’s disease with debilitating symptoms unrelieved by standard treatments or medications
• Hepatitis C with debilitating nausea or intractable pain unrelieved by standard treatments or medications
• Diseases such as anorexia which result in nausea, vomiting, wasting, appetite loss, cramping, seizures, muscle spasms, or spasticity, when these symptoms are unrelieved by standard treatments or medications
• Chronic renal failure requiring hemodialysis
• Post-traumatic stress disorder
• Traumatic brain injury
“Can any health care provider give me an authorization, like a chiropractor?”
Qualifying patients must be diagnosed by a health care practitioner and be a Washington resident at the time of their diagnosis.
The Department of Health does not keep a list of authorizing practitioners, but the following health care providers licensed in Washington can authorize the use of marijuana to patients: Medical doctor, Physician assistant, Osteopathic physician, Osteopathic physician assistant, Naturopathic physician, and Advanced registered nurse practitioner.
Some medical marijuana patients claim they have a “doctor’s prescription for medical marijuana,” but marijuana prescriptions are technically illegal. Since the federal government classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, licensed doctors are unable to prescribe it to their patients, and patients cannot go to a standard pharmacy to fill a prescription for medical marijuana.
Instead, those with authorization receive a medical card in compliance with state law that can be used at cannabis retailers. The card does have its benefits, including paying significantly less tax than recreational users and being able to purchase three times the amount of cannabis flower and associated products than recreational users. Cardholders can legally grow up to 15 plants for personal use.
Current regulations also require licensed marijuana retail stores with a medical endorsement to have a certified medical marijuana consultant on staff.
“What if I have a condition that isn’t listed, but I think medical marijuana would help?”
Prior to July 24, 2015, the Medical Quality Assurance Commission with the Board of Osteopathic Medicine and Surgery began considering petitions to add conditions for which medical marijuana could be recommended. That year, the law changed, and petitions are no longer allowed. To add a qualifying condition now requires an act of legislation.
However, the current list of conditions is quite broad, and many diagnoses, even if not listed specifically, can be authorized if it can be shown that it is causing intractable pain or complications unrelieved by standard medical treatments and medications.
Unfortunately, other mental health conditions such as bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety do not qualify due to a lack of scientific evidence supporting improved health outcomes from the use of medical marijuana.
For more information, visit doh.wa.gov/MedicalMarijuana.
Kate A. Miner has a degree in visual anthropology, and has worked in marketing and advertising for many years. She writes, takes photos and teaches yoga.