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Natural Awakenings Greater Boston - Rhode Island

Accessing Cannabis Medicine During Covid-19

Jun 29, 2020 03:00PM ● By Matthew Herrold
Cannabis medicines are still accessible. When COVID-19 first hit, many cannabis patients, as well as people that self-medicate with recreational cannabis, were left with unanswered questions. Many asked themselves questions like, “How do I renew my patient certification?” and “Can I still become a Massachusetts Medical Marijuana (MMJ) patient?”

The state was quick to fast track a law change in response to the pandemic. For the first time in history, Massachusetts patients could use telehealth appointments to certify as new patients and also recertify as renewal patients in the MMJ program. The state and medical clinics had to learn and implement new, secure technologies virtually overnight and deserve a round of applause for the extra hours and sleepless nights they lived to keep access open for the patients of Massachusetts. (Resource Links: Cannamed, Canna~Wise, Patient Resources)

Perks of certification

It saves money, time and offers patients an expanded product selection to aid their health pursuits. Quite simply, anyone with a qualifying condition should consider patient certification.

Medical marijuana cannot be taxed which is considerable when recreational cannabis products are subject to a 20 percent sales tax. Technically, it’s 17 percent and towns and cities elect for the additional 3 percent tax that the law allows host communities to charge if they so choose. Massachusetts cannabis law allows medical dispensaries to offer sales and discounts on their products to patients, whereas sales are strictly forbidden to recreational consumers. This includes specific product sales, new patient and loyalty incentive programs. (Massachusetts Tax Rates)

Another cost saver and an industry favorite are the special population discounts. Special population discounts can include: veterans, 100 percent disabled, seniors, hardship, first responders, pediatric and industry discounts. These are only available to patients.

Medical patients can save time. When they find a choice dispensary or two to serve their needs, dispensary agents become familiar with return patients. Those agents then can predict the needs of their regular patients and may even do research on their behalf. Dispensary agents may recall previous purchases to help a patient decide, or when the patient can’t remember what they bought during their last visit. This is because all medical purchases are securely tracked for each person in a state database where recreational is not.

Separate and dedicated medical registers are required at all dispensaries that serve both medical and recreational consumers. Orders may be made online so that a patient can walk in, pay and pick up their prepared medicines at the next available register.

The law on possession

For medical patients, the standard is the equivalent of 10 ounces every 60 days. Recreational consumers may only possess up to one ounce on their person. Medical patients have additional product selections at locations where both medical and recreational service is offered. That includes larger serving sizes for edibles that are only available to medical consumers; recreational products may not exceed 5 milligrams per serving. That can further drop the cost for the patient. (Marijuana in Massachusetts Whats Legal, Massachusetts Law About Marijuana)

Certifying during the COVID-19 outbreak

It’s never been easier. Cannabis clinics and certifying health professionals are currently allowed to offer telehealth visits for patient certification and recertification. That will change soon to a policy where patients must come in inside a calendar year. Patients will need current medical records—typically within the last 18 months—to show that they have been diagnosed with an eligible condition.

To get certified as a patient, find a certifying cannabis clinic like Cannamed, Cannawise or Alternative Wellness Center. Call the office to clarify exactly what medical records they will need. A person should then collect their records to provide proof of the qualifying condition, set the appointment and attend the appointment.

It’s that easy. Be sure to ask the office to fully enroll them in the program online. A temporary patient card may be printed for same day access and an official state medical marijuana card will arrive in the mail in a few weeks.

Qualifying conditions

Qualifying to become a Massachusetts medical marijuana patient intends to treat a debilitating medical condition. These include: cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, amyotrphic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and other conditions as determined in writing by a qualifying patient’s physician. Other conditions commonly treated in Massachusetts include chronic pain, anxiety, depression and sleeping disorders. There are many others, too. One clinic in Massachusetts lists over 65 qualifying conditions. (Medical Use of Marijuana Laws - Guidance for Clinicians) (Certifying Diagnosis for the Medical Use of Cannabis)

Any Massachusetts resident that finds relief to an ailment or condition with recreational cannabis should look into the MMJ program. In addition to saving money and time, the assistance of a medical team will help consumers navigate the larger selection that is available to medical patients and improve their quality of life.

Matthew Herrold is a certified wellness program coordinator and currently helps to develop the Massachusetts marijuana industry through branding and education. Connect at [email protected]