Most states with regulated medical cannabis programs require patients to obtain state-issued cards in order to purchase their medicines. A medical cannabis card certifies that the patient in question has been approved for cannabis use by a qualified medical professional.
The question posed by this post is as follows: should patients be able to obtain medical cannabis cards online? Online access is available in more than a dozen states. Patients can obtain their cards without ever leaving homes. Some see this is good; others see it as bad.
How It Works
The details of obtaining a medical cannabis card vary from one state the next. As a general rule, applications must be submitted with documentation from a qualified medical professional. Most states require a copy of the applicant’s photo ID, proof of residence, and a passport-type photo that will be affixed to the card.
Documentation from a qualified medical professional is only provided after consultation with the patient. In most states, doctors do not actually prescribe marijuana the same way they would prescribe antibiotics, for example. Rather, they recommend medical cannabis and leave it to patients and pharmacists to figure out the best products and delivery methods.
Doing all of this online streamlines the process. It is really no different than renewing your driver’s license or opening an investment account online. Obtaining a medical cannabis card online is efficient, fast, and fairly straightforward.
Telemedicine’s Time Has Arrived
At the heart of online medical cannabis card applications is telemedicine. Though the U.S. has had telemedicine technology in place for more than 30 years, doctors and patients alike have been slow to embrace it. That changed when coronavirus began its trek around the world in 2020. Now, it appears as though telemedicine’s time has arrived.
Doctors of all stripes are now embracing telemedicine out of necessity. There are still far too many patients too frightened of coronavirus to visit a provider’s office. Telemedicine is the only way to provide continuity of care in some cases.
All that said, any doctor capable of providing a proper primary care consultation via telemedicine should be able to consult with medical cannabis patients. During such consultations, the doctor’s main task is to determine whether or not the patient qualifies to use medical cannabis.
This can be accomplished through a combination of existing medical records and questions asked during the consultation. Medical records should no longer be a problem thanks to ERR mandates. Ask for the questions asked during consultation, they would be no different just because the consultation is taking place online.
Making Cards Too Easy to Obtain
The one caution here is that moving things online could make medical cannabis cards too easy to obtain. Take telemedicine out of the equation and patients have to make a real effort to obtain their cards. Consider Utah, for example. The doctors at Utahmarijuana.org say that patients in the most remote parts of the state sometimes have to drive for hours to see a qualified medical provider.
As the thinking goes, making it difficult to obtain a card reduces the likelihood of abuse. The other side of that coin is encouraging black-market sales. If a patient in remote Utah has to drive an hour to Provo or Salt Lake City, he just might decide to continue buying black-market marijuana as he always has.
Should patients be able to obtain medical cannabis cards online? If we deem telemedicine as legitimate, then there is no reason to not allow it. Telemedicine either works or it doesn’t. Obtaining medical cannabis cards is just one way of utilizing it.