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Medical Marijuana Doctor

Talking to your physician about medical cannabis

Many of you already know that Illinois physicians have been extremely resistant to recommending medical cannabis to prospective patients. Physicians are the “gatekeepers” to getting access, so the first step to applying should be to find a physician who is on board with your medical cannabis usage. You will not be granted a card without a physician’s signature.

With the passage of IL SB 10, physicians are no longer required to recommend; they simply need to verify that a patient has one of the 41 qualifying conditions and has a bona-fide physician/patient relationship. Illinois cannabis advocates were overjoyed in thinking this change would make physicians much more likely to sign. Let’s hope that is the case.

This post is about steps to take when talking to your physician about medical cannabis usage and what to do if they still refuse to certify you. Please be aware that only a doctor of medicine or osteopathy licensed under the Medical Practice Act to practice medicine with a current controlled substances license can certify you for the program. Here is a link to the required physician’s form:

1. Bring your medical records with you when you talk with your physician.

2. Explain why you believe medical cannabis will be beneficial for your well-being; it can relieve pain, alleviate nausea, restore appetite, decrease muscle spasms, control tremors and aid in sleep, just to name a few benefits.

3. Show your physician that you are educated and aware of any possible side effects of medical cannabis usage; dry eyes, drowsiness, headache, dizziness and anxiety.

4. If you are already medicating with cannabis, explain what medical cannabis products, dosages and delivery methods you are using and describe the benefits it is providing.

5. If you are intending to replace pharmaceuticals with medical cannabis, explain that the adverse side effects of pharmaceuticals are diminishing your quality of life. You expect medical cannabis to provide even better symptom relief without the adverse side effects. If you are intending to use medical cannabis in conjunction with your pharmaceuticals, ask them if you need to make an adjustment of your pharmaceuticals. Reassure your physician that there is little possibility of an adverse drug reaction.

6. Avoid slang terms such as “pot” or “weed” when talking about it. Use “medical cannabis” or “medical marijuana.”

7. Remind your physician as strongly as possible that they are not recommending medical cannabis usage, but merely certifying that you have a qualifying condition and a bona-fide relationship. Reiterate that they cannot be sanctioned by the Medical Disciplinary Board for certifying you for medical cannabis usage. Make sure you bring the necessary form for your physician to sign.

If you cannot convince your physician to certify, then it is time to find another physician. I sought out the advice of a long time Illinois cannabis activist and industry consultant on how to do that. Here’s what he told me:

“The general answer is that patients should pursue the same sort of channels to find a new doctor that they would under any other circumstance. Look at who’s covered by their health insurance, recommendations from friends, family, checking around for a new, regular doctor, not just a doctor to sign a certification form.”

“However, if you’re in a rural area, or some place where none of the doctors that you could see under normal circumstances are willing or able to certify, then you need to start exploring the other options outside of their area….which of course will not be their primary doctor.”

If you still can’t find a physician, there are several medical cannabis advocacy centers in the Chicagoland area that can help.

You can also join the Facebook group, Illinois Medical Cannabis Community and
ask fellow members for physician recommendations.

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