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Pros & Cons Of Getting A Medical Card 2023: Benefits & Downsides

Dara Brewton

Updated on - Written by
Medically reviewed by Kathy Shattler, MS, RDN

consequences of getting a medical card

A medical marijuana card, also known as a medical cannabis card, is an ID card issued by your state or country, with your doctor’s recommendation, permitting you to cultivate, possess, and obtain cannabis for medicinal purposes. You usually have to pay a fee to get this card. The card is generally valid for one year and can be renewed. When renewing, you will have to obtain a doctor’s recommendation and pay the fee again.

More than two-thirds of states in the US[1] have legalized marijuana use for medical purposes. It is interesting to note that the Food and Drug Administration has only approved[2] medical marijuana to treat two rare kinds of epilepsy: Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. FDA approval has been limited to just these two disorders because of the lack of research regarding the safe and effective use of marijuana to treat other diseases.

Is It Bad Having A Medical Marijuana Card?

While there are already 36 US states[3], the District of Columbia, and four US territories that have permitted the medical use of marijuana, there are still some unintended consequences for possessing a medical marijuana card.

Having a medical marijuana card also makes acquiring marijuana reasonably easy when you live in a state where it’s legal. The ease of acquiring marijuana can be a positive as well as a negative. It is good because those who need it to treat their condition can have easy access, but on the other hand, there are concerns of an increase in marijuana use for those underaged since supply is easier to get.

Because there is currently no proper guidance for businesses and companies regarding medical marijuana use, employees who are qualified to use cannabis for their medical condition may be seen by their employers as a safety risk. This concern is especially true if the job entails operating a vehicle or handling heavy machinery. 

Many companies have straightforward policies regarding the use of illicit drugs, including marijuana. Some companies even have zero-tolerance policies, which means if your drug test comes out positive, you can lose your job, or they will not hire you if you are applying for the job.

The same dilemma goes for schools. Since there are no guidelines for how schools handle students who are medically qualified to use cannabis, school nurses will not administer medical marijuana to a student because it is illegal on a federal level.

According to a study by researchers from the RAND corporation[4], medical marijuana cards are more sought after by individuals who are heavy users of marijuana than those who have physical or mental issues that the drug can remedy. 

It is easier to have access to marijuana with the card, increasing the risk of abuse. Because of this, some policymakers are pushing for states to only allow acquisition of the medical marijuana cards for those who have physical and mental problems which have documented evidence of medicinal benefit. 

Since research is limited on the medical benefits of marijuana, it may pose a problem for individuals who rely on marijuana to ease symptoms of diseases that do not have documented evidence of success.

How Can I Get A Medical Marijuana Card?

The procedure for getting a medical marijuana card differs per state, but there are similar patterns in the process. 

You will first need to check with your state’s health department website and determine if your ailment is allowed by your state to be treated with medical marijuana. If your condition is listed, consult with your primary physician and discuss medical marijuana treatment for your disorder. 

While your primary care physician may not be able to certify you for a medical marijuana card, they know your medical history and medicine you are currently taking and would be able to provide you with some insight into the possible effects of medical marijuana on you. Some conditions require documentation such as X-rays or MRIs from your primary care provider that you need to have before getting certification.

Once you’ve spoken with your primary care physician and they are on board with you taking medical marijuana, you need to find a doctor that is registered in your state to give you certification for the card. This doctor will evaluate and verify that you have a condition that will qualify you for a medical marijuana card. They will also discuss how to use marijuana to manage your condition and any side effects you may experience from its use. No doctor is legally allowed to prescribe marijuana, but with the discussion with your doctor, you should know what to get from the dispensary.

Depending on the state, you may also be required to register with the health department before you can get your card. You will acquire a temporary medical marijuana card, and in a few weeks, you will receive the actual card. You can use your temporary card to purchase medical marijuana at the dispensaries. Dispensaries carry different products, so if available, speak with a cannabis pharmacist to help you make a selection on what to purchase based on your doctor’s recommendations.

Benefits of Getting A Medical Marijuana Card 

With states starting to move towards fully legalizing marijuana use, you may wonder if it’s still worth getting a medical marijuana card. There are numerous benefits of getting approved for having one, from getting the correct dosage to paying less for your medication.

Offers Protection

Cannabis is still registered as an illegal drug by the federal government, and state laws constantly change regarding marijuana use. Having a medical marijuana card gives you some protection according to the medical marijuana laws in your state.

Purchase Professionally Cultivated Marijuana

Having a medical marijuana card makes professionally grown marijuana available to you. These producers can provide third-party lab results that can tell you precisely what you’re ingesting.

Professional marijuana producers have a wide range of marijuana products you can choose from. They offer different strains and come in various forms such as flowers, vapes, lotions, etc. You can get the exact level of THC to CBD ratio that you desire.

Save Money

If you live in a state that allows marijuana usage for recreational purposes, you’ll save more money buying marijuana with a medical card than without one because taxes are lower or even exempted for those who use it for medicinal purposes.

Safety

Due to third-party testing[5], legally obtained marijuana is safer than marijuana purchased through illegal channels. Marijuana purchased from dispensaries will have been properly tested for pesticides and heavy metals like lead. In addition, you are able to purchase a strain of cannabis that matches your doctor’s recommendation. 

Drawbacks of A Medical Marijuana Card

​​There are more advantages than disadvantages to having a medical marijuana card. If you’re contemplating getting one, you should know that there may be certain things you may not be able to do once you are a registered medical marijuana cardholder.

Cannot Own Firearm

If you have a medical marijuana card, you cannot own[6] a firearm or purchase one.

No Commercial Driving License

You cannot have a commercial driver’s license[7] if you have a medical marijuana card because the Department of Transportation does not grant the use of medical marijuana for safety reasons. And suppose your employer decides to give you a drug test, and it comes out positive. In that case, a medical marijuana card will not bestow you with any protection from losing your job if you operate vehicles.

Cumbersome Fees

The medical marijuana card has a validity of one year, after which you have to get another recommendation from your doctor and apply and pay for the license fees. While the renewal fee is minimal, it’s cumbersome to have to renew your card every year

Final Thought: Should We Get a Medical Marijuana Card?

Even if marijuana is entirely legal in your state, it is still to your advantage to acquire your medical marijuana card if you have a qualifying medical condition. Those who have medical marijuana cards have fringe benefits that recreational users do not receive.

Medical marijuana is a natural way to help manage physical and mental health issues. Having a medical marijuana card adds to the legitimacy and credibility of those who use marijuana for medicinal purposes.

But more importantly, getting a medical marijuana card means you consulted with a specialist who discussed and provided insight on the best treatment plan for your comfort level with cannabis use, condition, goals, and symptoms. They can advise you on how many grams a day your intake should be, which strains would be most effective, and the best administration method. You risk the dose being ineffective if you take too little, being tolerant quickly if you take too much, or making your condition worse if you self-medicate.

Medical marijuana cardholders get priority service in dispensaries and are guaranteed stock in certain states. Recreational users cannot reserve cannabis products, unlike those who have the card. As a cardholder, you may also buy more than the set limit given to recreational users.

In certain states, if you have a green thumb with a medical marijuana card, you can legally grow up to five marijuana plants for your medical needs. This way, you’ll be sure of what you’ll be ingesting as well.

Inflammation and pain are underlying symptoms of several chronic diseases. Suppose you feel that you’ve exhausted all other options or aren’t keen on the side effects of current prescription painkillers. In that case, you may want to discuss getting a recommendation for medical marijuana with your physician.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is medical marijuana?

Medical marijuana uses the plant or chemicals from the plant to treat mental or physical conditions. It is identical to recreational marijuana but taken for treatment. Marijuana has more than 100 cannabinoids[8] that have different effects on the body. Usually, cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are the chemicals used for treatment — although you do not need a medical marijuana card to purchase CBD products.

What conditions does medical marijuana treat?

The United States FDA[9] has currently only approved treatment for two rare forms of epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, and Dravet syndrome, using medical marijuana. Because cannabis is still considered illegal on the federal level, research about using marijuana to treat other diseases is limited.

How many states allow medical marijuana?

There are currently 36 states[10] that allow medical marijuana use.


+ 10 sources

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  1. Ncsl.org. (2021). State Medical Marijuana Laws. [online] Available at: https://www.ncsl.org/research/health/state-medical-marijuana-laws.aspx [Accessed 1 Sep. 2021].
  2. ‌Office of the Commissioner (2020). FDA Approves New Indication for Drug Containing an Active Ingredient Derived from Cannabis to Treat Seizures in Rare Genetic Disease. [online] U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Available at: https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-approves-new-indication-drug-containing-active-ingredient-derived-cannabis-treat-seizures-rare#:~:text=Epidiolex%20was%20previously%20approved%20for,drug%20substance%20derived%20from%20cannabis. [Accessed 1 Sep. 2021].
  3. ‌Ncsl.org. (2021). State Medical Marijuana Laws. [online] Available at: https://www.ncsl.org/research/health/state-medical-marijuana-laws.aspx [Accessed 1 Sep. 2021].
  4. ‌Rand.org. (2019). Density of Marijuana Outlets Associated with More and Higher Use Among Young Adults. [online] Available at: https://www.rand.org/news/press/2021/01/13.html [Accessed 1 Sep. 2021].
  5. ‌Freeman, K., Mchenry Phd, M., Cats–Baril, W. and Grace, T. (2016). P a g e | 1 Cannabis Testing for Public Safety – Best Practices for Vermont Analytical Laboratories. [online] . Available at: https://legislature.vermont.gov/Documents/2016/WorkGroups/Senate%20Health%20and%20Welfare/Marijuana/W~Dr.%20Kalev%20Freeman~Canabis%20Testing%20for%20Public%20Safety%20-%20Best%20Practices%20for%20Vermont~1-20-2016.pdf.
  6. Arkansas MMJ Card. (2015). Can Arkansas Marijuana Patients Own Firearms? | Arkansas Marijuana Card. [online] Available at: https://www.arkansasmarijuanacard.com/can-marijuana-patients-own-firearms [Accessed 1 Sep. 2021].
  7. ‌Transportation.gov. (2019). DOT “Medical Marijuana” Notice | US Department of Transportation. [online] Available at: https://www.transportation.gov/odapc/medical-marijuana-notice [Accessed 1 Sep. 2021].
  8. ‌NCCIH. (2018). Cannabis (Marijuana) and Cannabinoids: What You Need To Know. [online] Available at: https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/cannabis-marijuana-and-cannabinoids-what-you-need-to-know [Accessed 1 Sep. 2021].
  9. ‌Office of the Commissioner (2020). FDA and Cannabis: Research and Drug Approval Process. [online] U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Available at: https://www.fda.gov/news-events/public-health-focus/fda-and-cannabis-research-and-drug-approval-process [Accessed 1 Sep. 2021].
  10. Ncsl.org. (2021). State Medical Marijuana Laws. [online] Available at: https://www.ncsl.org/research/health/state-medical-marijuana-laws.aspx [Accessed 1 Sep. 2021].
Dara Brewton

Medically reviewed by:

Kathy Shattler

Dara is a full-time freelance writer with experience in several fields including politics, travel, and ophthalmology. When she isn't sitting at her computer, you can find her dabbling in filmmaking and acting.

Medically reviewed by:

Kathy Shattler

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