How to Choose Your Medical Marijuana Doctor
By Ed Murrieta
Finding the right medical marijuana doctor is the same as finding the
right doctor for any medical condition.
Here are 10 tips for getting the most medical benefits and the best
customer satisfaction when seeking your medical marijuana
1. Chose a doctor who is referred to you by someone you know and
trust. Seeking a trusted-source’s recommendation is the best way to
find any service professional, from a plumber to a doctor.Caveat
emptor to anyone who choses a doctor based on a newspaper ad and “low,
low prices” alone. Also, it is wise to check a doctor’s standing with
your state’s medical board.
2. Consider whether a doctor’s practice includes treatments other than
medical marijuana evaluations. Doctors who authorize medical marijuana
recommenations need to be qualified to evaluate the medical conditions
of their customers, aka patients. If you suffer from chronic pain, you
need a doctor who practices in that area.
3. Consider whether care is provided by someone other than a
physician. Some offices deputize nurse practioners or physician
assistants as primary care providers. Beyond ethical considerations,
quality of care is a major concern. Medical marijuana examinations are
often the first encounters many patients have had with a medical
professional in years — or, in the cases of many rural patients I
encounter, their first ever. Many medical marijuana patients are drawn
to natural remedies and many lack health insurance and opt-out of
traditional medicine. Only trained and licensed medical doctors have
the experience and ability to talk with patients, to diagnose their
conditions and to provide adequate care.
4. Inquire about the doctor’s recommendation verification procedure.
Not all doctors subscribe to 24/7 online verification services that
are compliant with the federal Health Insurance Portability and
Accountibility Act that covers the privacy of patients’ medical
5. Ask whether inclusion in a verification database is both opt-in and
opt-out. Some medical marijuana patients across do not wish to be
included in any verification databases for both professional and
personal reasons. You should be given a release form to sign in order
for your information to be included in a verification database. Ask if
you have the option not to have your information in such a database,
and ask how your recommendation will be verified in that circumstance.
6. Ask whether the doctor will make a recommendation on the amount of
cannabis you can grow and possess, a recommendation generally called a
“grower’s certificate.” Under the California State Health and Safety
Code, doctors are allowed to recommend and write exemptions for the
amount of cannabis patients can grow and possess based on patients’
medical needs, cultivation practices and yields. Such recommendations,
provided above and beyond the standard medical marijuana
recommendation, provide patients with an extra measure of limited
immunity from prosecution.
7. Ask whether the doctor will appear in court on your behalf if
necessary. As your medical provider, the person who writes your
medical marijuana recommendation should be willing and able to affirm,
in court, that your medical condition is relieved by the use of
cannabis and that you use and/or grow cannabis under a physician’s
8. Bring your medical records. “It hurts,” will get you sympathy and
understanding, but if you want a recommedation for medical marijuana,
you should bring your medical records. X-rays and charts, along with
any prescription medications you are taking for your condition, are
preferrred. Even notes from a chiropractor or physical therapist
pertaining to your medical condition are helpful. You can fax your
doctor and ask that your records be sent to you or to the doctor who
is performing your medical marijuana evalutation.
9. Be truthful with your doctor. This is a medical examination, not a
drug deal. Withholding or embellishing information about your
qualifying condition for medical marijauana can make your doctor doubt
your claims. Honest information leads to an accurate diagnoses, and,
if the doctor believes you qualify, a recommendation to use, grow and
possess medical marijuana.
10. Show up clean and sober. This should go without saying, but many
patients — whether they are seeking to use medical cannabis for pain,
depression, or harm reduction — undermine their crediblity if they
arrive for appointments unkempt or intoxicated.