Under federal law, medical marijuana is illegal. That is why pharmacies are not allowed to sell it and doctors are prohibited from prescribing the drug. They just recommend medical marijuana to patients that they feel would benefit from it. Take note that there are doctors who do not support the use of medical marijuana. They can only recommend it after finding out that it can actually help their patients, in spite of its side effects.
When doctors recommend medical marijuana, they write a letter regarding the patient’s diagnosed illness and their choice of cannabis as its treatment. Some patients keep the letter where they can easily reach it while others always take it along with them. A 2003 California law gives the state permission to distribute ID cards to patients under cannabis medication. This can take the place of a recommendation letter.
The recommendation of a doctor is valid as long as the patients are under his/her treatment and he/she thinks that they need the drug to treat their condition. Most dispensaries as well as pro-medical marijuana organizations have a list of doctors who recommend medical marijuana when they feel the need to. However, this practice has caused controversy as some doctors give a recommendation for almost any health condition in exchange of cash.
Since medical cannabis is not sold at a regular pharmacy and insurance does not cover it, a number of patients grow their own marijuana or get their suppliers from caregivers. Some go to dispensaries where they can be legally sold, depending on the state law. Such dispensaries are sometimes known as cannabis co-ops or clubs or have names associated with caregiving, health and physical therapy. At times, they are called collectives because the marijuana being sold there is grown by members consisting of patients. Detractors argue that most dispensaries actually buy marijuana illegally and are often prone to abuse by those who do not need marijuana for medical treatment. Moreover, different laws on the way patients obtain marijuana, have created a so-called “gray economy” or black market of marijuana suppliers. When a patient has a valid ID card or recommendation letter, he/she can just go to the dispensary and present it. A patient may apply as a member to join the dispensary. Thereafter, he/she can buy a variety of herbal marijuana and other marijuana-based products and foods like smoothies, cakes, cookies, chocolate and butter. There is no standard dosage for marijuana so patients just regulate the medication on their own.
When it comes to taking marijuana, most patients smoke it, though it gives a number of side effects aside from causing intoxication. Smoking, certainly, is bad for the lungs but the effect is almost immediate. Some studies show that smoke from marijuana is less toxic than cigarette smoke. There are other alternatives like marijuana-based foods and using a vaporizer, which burns marijuana at a relatively lower temperature than when it is smoked. This device discharges the THC from the plant while producing less harmful byproducts. One of its popular models called Volcano costs about $500.
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