Did you know that there are 4.4 million registered medical marijuana patients in the United States? That number is quickly approaching 5 million, or 2 percent of the entire population.
This increase is, in part, due to the many health benefits medical marijuana offers. These include treating symptoms of serious, chronic diseases and health conditions.
Cannabis reform laws have been sweeping the country for the last few decades, with at least 37 states now allowing the use of medical marijuana. Texas is one of these, but it requires going through a strict approval process and a card to legally possess and use marijuana.
If you have a severe medical condition, you may be wondering how to get your medical marijuana card in Texas. It is a complex process and a single misstep could mean denial. The good news is that, once you understand the requirements for a medical marijuana prescription and the application process, you can determine the best steps forward.
The information below explains the prerequisites for eligibility. It also provides more information on some of the health benefits medical marijuana can afford. Keep reading to find out how you can treat serious symptoms and improve your quality of life.
People often think “cannabis” and “marijuana” are the same thing. They are actually distinct substances.
“Cannabis” refers to the different products that come from the Cannabis sativa plant. The plant contains about 540 chemicals that can have various impacts when consumed.
Marijuana is one of these. It refers to the parts of the plant that contain the largest amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This is the compound that affects the mental state of the consumer, producing a “high.”
There are many cannabis-derived products, such as cannabidiol (CBD), that have little or no THC. They have many health benefits as well and can deliver them without the “high.” Yet they are often much less impactful in relieving the symptoms of chronic diseases than medical marijuana.
People have used cannabis for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. It was first cultivated in central Asia, what is now western China. The first documented case was in 2,800 BCE, when it appeared on a pharmacy list of Emperor Shen Nung, who is considered the “father of Chinese medicine.”
The most common use of medical marijuana in the United States is for treating pain. It is not always strong enough to treat severe pain, such as that experienced following major surgery. But it is very effective at combatting chronic pain associated with various diseases.
A big advantage is that medical marijuana does not have the same side effects as other medications, such as strong pain relievers. For these reasons, it has become a popular option for sufferers of nerve pain from multiple sclerosis or muscle pain from Parkinson’s. Patients report reduced pain but without the adverse side effects common with other treatments.
Marijuana also is a great alternative to many over-the-counter pain relievers that can be hard on the liver, kidneys, heart, and other organs. This makes it especially useful for patients who have underlying conditions that affect these organs.
Another related advantage of marijuana is that it has the potential to be much less addictive than many other pain medications. These include opiates, which are responsible for close to 100,000 overdose deaths every year in the United States.
For the same reasons, medical marijuana has proven to be effective at treating addiction to alcohol and many illegal drugs. These include heroin and cocaine withdrawal. It can help curb cravings, and many rehabilitation facilities are embracing this alternative to treat severe addiction.
Medical marijuana also is effective at relieving myriad other symptoms. These include inflammation, which can cause joint pain and gastrointestinal problems.
It is very helpful in diminishing nausea and vomiting. This has made it a prominent treatment for the negative repercussions of chemotherapy.
Also, medical marijuana can help with insomnia, anxiety, and related disorders. These include social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. In general, it can dissipate the onset or severity of panic attacks and even seizures.
According to Texas law, the possession of marijuana is a crime, the punishment for which depends on the amount. Less than 2 ounces is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to four months in jail and a $2,000 fine.
(Note that Dallas, El Paso, and Plano have reduced penalties for possession or refuse to prosecute small amounts. This has essentially decriminalized marijuana possession in these locations.)
Jail times and fines increase with the amount of marijuana in possession. Besides selling it, some possession amounts are felonies with very serious penalties.
While these more serious penalties most likely do not apply to medicinal marijuana users, the point is that even a small amount of marijuana is a serious crime. Even possession of paraphernalia carries some small penalties.
The good news is that Texas does permit medical marijuana use. Although, it is heavily regulated.
Medicinal use of marijuana was first authorized in 2019 when the state legislature passed House Bill 3703. (CBD oil has been permitted for treating epilepsy since 2015). The important thing is that you are in compliance with the law in obtaining it.
Texas limits medical marijuana use to participants in the Compassionate Use Program (CUP). The state Department of Public Safety runs this initiative.
CUP operates a secure online registry known as the Compassionate Use Registry of Texas (CURT) for qualified physicians. Doctors registered with CURT can prescribe low-THC (under 1 percent). Qualified patients must have certain medical conditions and meet other qualifications.
The purpose of the registry is to ensure that only one physician is prescribing medical marijuana to any given patient. The information is also accessible to law enforcement so that they might verify the legality of marijuana possession by a qualified patient.
Also, CUP licenses dispensaries that fill medical marijuana prescriptions in the state. These pharmacies must meet the highest health standards and policies laid out by the medical marijuana law.
There are two main steps in obtaining a medical marijuana card in the state. These are determining your eligibility and obtaining approval from an approved physician.
State law lays out specific qualifications for obtaining medical marijuana in Texas. It spells out the application and approval process, which CUP administers.
First, you must have a serious, chronic medical condition. While there are more than 200 approved ailments, major ones include:
Last year, the Texas State Legislature voted to veterans to the list. Those who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or any type of cancer are eligible for medical marijuana. It also doubled the amount of allowable THC in medical marijuana from 0.5 to 1 percent.
There are other requirements for obtaining a medical marijuana card in Texas. These include being a permanent resident of the state and having a prescription.
There is no minimum age for medical cannabis prescriptions. Minors do need the approval of their parent or legal guardian.
To get a prescription for medical marijuana in Texas, you must gain approval from a physician who is registered with the CUP. You can find one by searching the online database, CURT.
If you prefer to discuss this option with your family doctor, they can likely discuss the advantages with you. But they will need to make a referral to a CUP-registered doctor to fulfill the prescription.
Another advantage of using a registered physician is that they will have a wealth of experience in assessing chronic health conditions. This can aid in determining the benefits of medical marijuana for treating symptoms.
During the appointment, the doctor will discuss your medical condition with you. They will inquire about the severity of symptoms and the effects these have on your quality of life. They also may ask for medical records, including a history of medications and treatments, so be sure you are ready to supply this information at the visit.
This is important information for the approval process. It also is an opportune time for you to ask any questions you might have about medical marijuana and its effects.
Note that Texas allows telemedicine evaluations for obtaining a medical marijuana prescription. These can be particularly useful for people who have mobility issues, as well as a matter of convenience.
The doctor must enter the prescription information into CURT. This includes the patient’s name, date of birth, and the last five digits of their Social Security Number.
Once you receive your medical marijuana card, you can fill out the prescription. There are state-operated dispensaries, with various locations throughout the state. Your doctor should inform you of the location where they submitted the prescription.
You also should call the pharmacy to confirm they have received the prescription. This is a requirement of the dispensaries, to ensure that the doctor and patient are on the same page.
In Texas, there are limitations on the type of medical marijuana products that pharmacies can make available. In general, these include tinctures, gummies, and lozenges. They do not dispense marijuana flower or concentrates for smoking or vaping.
A common question is: Can I use out-of-state pharmacies with a Texas marijuana card? The answer is no. CUP-registered physicians are only allowed to send prescriptions to state-sponsored dispensaries.
It is worth noting that there are still possession limits that govern patients who have qualified for a medical marijuana card in Texas. These are often determined by the attending physician. In general, if you are obtaining and using medical marijuana as prescribed by your doctor, then you are likely within the boundaries of the law.
The Texas medical marijuana card is valid for one year. You will need to submit a renewal application every 12 months to ensure continuity in your prescription.
Unless your diagnosis or conditions change, the process is likely to be much easier than the initial approval. Remember to schedule a consultation with the registered physician at least a month or two before your card is set to expire. Also, CUP will send you reminders of any pending approval expirations.
Note that some dispensaries offer delivery services. If you are unable to travel to a dispensary to fill a prescription, this option may be helpful.
Texas law does allow caregivers to assist in obtaining prescribed medical marijuana. There is no formal process for becoming a “caregiver” under Texas law. The patient will need to give this information to the prescribing doctor. and the dispensary.
CUP will need the caretaker’s name, date of birth, and the last five digits of their Social Security Number. Also, the caregiver will need to provide a driver’s license or another form of identification to fill the prescription.
Now that you understand how to get a medical marijuana card in Texas, you can determine if you are eligible. You also should have a clear understanding of how to proceed with the application process. If you have questions or need help navigating itincluding adding your information to CURTthere are private companies that can assist.
At Teleleaf, we have connected more than 27,000 patients with trusted physicians in Texas and throughout the United States. Our services are safe, secure, and HIPPA-compliant, and come with a guaranteed refund if you are not approved. Reach out to us today to learn more about our services.