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Understanding Your Medical Cannabis Card

Please remember that your medical cannabis card represents progress and is itself a piece of history. It's helpful to the patient community to understand that we're all under scrutiny, and laws are shaped by public opinion and sentiment.

Each state has different laws around their medical cannabis program. Not all states do a great job of explaining them clearly. Make sure that you contact whatever agency issued your card with questions, because it helps them understand where information is lacking and they should be able to provide answers quickly.

We offer generic guidance below:

  • Try to the best of your ability, to comply with all regulations surrounding purchasing, transporting, storing and consuming medical cannabis.

  • Try to the best of your ability, to understand the intent of the regulations that come with your card. This means you need to understand how to use best judgement if you encounter a situation where the law is completely lacking, or ambiguous.

Disabled people often have circumstances that lawmakers never envisioned, because most lawmakers don't live disabled experiences; this is why we say try to the best of your ability. Additionally, most lawmakers don't have a disporoportionately higher number of interactions with law enforcement as compared with any group of patients. When you encounter dumb rules, make noise to the issusing authority and your elected representatives, as well as your practitioner.

We realize that some places have very little guidance on what you should or shouldn't do. To put it in even simpler terms, if it feels wrong you should question doing it, and always try to avoid bringing unnecessary attention to your consumption and possession in public.

Why is my qualifying condition listed as x instead of y?

The best answer is to ask your provider because any specifics would fall under medical advice. However, we have context that isn't offered as advice, but merely insight into how the programs themselves are structured, which we'll offer here.

Your provider will take all of your conditions into consideration when you discuss your eligibility for medical cannabis in your state. If approved, it's because your provider found that one or more of your conditions are eligible and treatable with the amount and kinds of cannabis they can legally prescribe for you.

Each state lists different conditions for eligibility in their respective program; your provider will issue your certification based on the strongest one where you live, but will sometimes also factor in how easily you could use your cards in neighboring states if you had to. Cards do have reciprocity in neighboring programs, if the qualifying conditions are amenable.

All currently-active programs accept chronic pain as an acceptable condition, so if that was one of your conditions, your medical card would be guaranteed in your state and likely accepted anywhere else purchase is legal. This isn't always the case for conditions like insomnia, headaches, anxiety or depression.

It doesn't mean you aren't treating those conditions with cannabis, it's just the strongest case under the law for you to be permitted entry to the program.

But, ask your provider to be sure.

How should I store medical cannabis?

Each type of medical cannabis product lists acceptable levels for light, temperature and humidity, which you can find in their respective wikis. No matter what product you use or arrangements you make, make sure that:

  • All products containing THC are clearly labeled as containing THC.

  • All products containing THC are kept securely away from non-patients of all ages. Some form of lock should be used, and cannabis in-use should be kept on your person.

  • All products meant for ingestion of any kind are routinely checked for mold, expiration, rotated, etc - like other consumables. Cannabis flower and edible products are succeptable to mold.

How this works mostly depends on your needs. Do you live with 6 college students? Physical security to prevent unauthorized borrowing would most likely be in order. Do you live alone? Think of any visitors you might have, especially children, and just take reasonable precautions. Most laws specify a physical lock, so keep that in mind.

You can also check out the equipment wiki for smell-proof storage options and recommendations for cannabis odor management.

How do I understand the limits on my card?

This depends on your state. Most have a system that will tell you how many grams of dried flower or concentrate you are able to purchase at any given time. This amount is set by your health care provider, within allowances that are set by the program. How much varies state by state, but most give at least 4 ounces per month, with allowances for more as necessary.

What is my flower / dry flower balance?

This is the amount, in grams, of dried cannabis flower that you are able to purchase. In some states, you can purchase exactly this amount, others allow up to 90%, depending on how their math works to balance those who purchase concentrates and edibles against this balance.

What is my concentrate / edible balance?

Since concentrates and extracts are highly potent, they require substantially more flower in order to yield a gram. For this reason, they will count as 3x the same weight in dried flower.

To explain this simply, Almost 1/8 (3.5 grams) of an ounce of dried flower is needed to produce 1 gram of concentrate. That's why 1 gram of concentrate will deduct 3 grams of dried flower from your available balance. However, 1 gram of concentrate will typically last longer than 3 grams of dried flower; concentrates bring more value than the sum of the parts.

Thankfully, there's plenty of reason to believe this will happen soon in the United States, so it does pose an interesting question about what happens to medical cannabis programs once everyone can just buy cannabis without a card. The short version of it will vary from state to state, but a few things can be distilled out as likely to be common when it happens:

  • Continued access to all strains, regardless of THC or other levels: We don't know what legislation that ultimately declassifies cannabis as controlled might look like.

  • Continued priority access to cannabis during shortages vs purely recreational users.

  • The ability to deduct the cost of cannabis from taxes or health plans that offer a budget for discretionary health that the prescription plan won't cover.

There's plenty of reasons to believe that they won't become useless plastic, well, at least not immediately, but the future isn't certain.

If your health depends on access to cannabis and cards remain available that protect that access, we definitely think it's in your best interest to keep one if they're affordable enough.