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Exploring the Use of Medical Marijuana in Treating Depression

It’s becoming more and more common for people living with mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression to find relief through medical marijuana use.

But how do you obtain medical marijuana for depression?

Each state has its own specific regulations regarding medical marijuana access—some more strict than others. However, in most states, the process boils down to:

  1. Finding a medical marijuana doctor that meets your state’s criteria
  2. Talking through your symptoms and lifestyle to see if a recommendation is right for you
  3. Heading to a dispensary or pharmacy to purchase medical cannabis products

This article breaks down the legal nuances of getting a medical marijuana recommendation and offers practical advice on how to use medical marijuana to treat depression.

The Potential of Medical Marijuana for Treating Depression

Before diving into the legal aspects of getting medical marijuana, it’s helpful to understand how impactful medical cannabis can be for people living with depression.

Some of the most common treatment options and medical recommendations for depression are:

  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and other counseling approaches
  • Physical exercise such as walking or yoga

But these treatments come with limitations. For instance, it can take time to find the right dosage of antidepressants, and you may only start to feel their effects after days or weeks of taking them. It can also take a while to find the right therapist and start noticing positive changes.

For many patients, medical marijuana can either:

  • Fill in the gaps in their traditional treatment plans, or
  • Serve as a standalone treatment and recovery tool

Regardless of how you use it, marijuana can provide a new, powerful pathway to real recovery rather than symptom management.

One woman writing for The Washington Post, Diana Whitney, says that medical marijuana was able to pull her out of her depressive episode and help her reconnect with her family. There is a lot of stigma around using medical marijuana to manage depression, but Whitney asserts that medical marijuana’s benefits vastly outweigh living with her debilitating symptoms.

The Path to Obtaining Medical Marijuana

Most states currently allow medical marijuana use—38, to be exact. But their laws vary in many ways, including which medical conditions qualify and the types of marijuana allowed for use.

Some states have very comprehensive medical marijuana guidelines, meaning they allow for:

  • Cannabis access through multiple channels including dispensaries and home growing
  • The use of many different types of cannabis, including products with THC content
  • Smoking or vaping of cannabis products

Other states are more strict: many limit the definition of legal medical cannabis to high CBD, low THC products.

No matter how strict your state’s laws may be, the process for getting a medical marijuana recommendation typically includes:

  1. Meeting with a qualified healthcare professional
  2. Getting a recommendation from this provider
  3. Using your recommendation to apply for a medical marijuana card
  4. Using your card to verify your recommendation at a dispensary or pharmacy

How to Get a Medical Marijuana Recommendation for Depression

In most states, the medical marijuana recommendation process is slightly different than the typical prescription process.

In order to obtain medical marijuana, you must first speak to a doctor who’s certified to give medical marijuana recommendations in your state. It’s critical to review your state laws before choosing a provider—not all states allow every provider to recommend medical cannabis. Your state may have a registry of providers to choose from.

Once you find a provider, they’ll talk through your symptoms, lifestyle, and needs to determine whether medical cannabis is a good match for your treatment plan. Your symptoms and health history are a key part of this decision—many states only allow medical marijuana recommendations for people with qualifying conditions.

Some of the most common conditions on these lists include:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Chronic pain
  • Arthritis
  • Seizures
  • Cancer
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)

Interestingly, you’ll find that depression isn’t on many states’ lists of qualifying conditions. However, you may still qualify if:

  • Your state’s legislation is broad – For example, in California, any serious medical condition that significantly impacts your quality of life can qualify as a valid reason for medical marijuana use.
  • You have another qualifying condition on your state’s list – Patients use medical cannabis to treat a wide variety of conditions. If you have another condition that meets your state’s criteria for recommendation, your provider may suggest medical cannabis treatment for this.
  • Providers have ample freedom in your state – In Louisiana, for instance, doctors can recommend medical marijuana for any condition they think cannabis treatment would benefit. This is true in some other states, but not many.

The best way to find out if you qualify for a medical marijuana recommendation is to meet with a certified professional who’s an expert in your state’s specific rules.

At TeleLeaf, we make this process simple and convenient. You can meet with one of our doctors from the comfort of your own home to find out if medical marijuana is right for you.

Applying for a Medical Marijuana Card

After meeting with a provider and receiving a medical marijuana recommendation, the next step varies based on your state’s process. You’ll need to either:

  • Take your recommendation directly to a dispensary or pharmacy, or
  • Use your recommendation to apply for a medical marijuana card

If your state requires a medical card application, this is what you’ll use at the dispensary to verify your legal right to purchase cannabis.

In some states, your doctor may be able to help you with your application or submit one on your behalf. The best way to find out is to meet with a provider to discuss the process.

Finding a Dispensary

Once you receive your recommendation or your medical card, it’s time to find a dispensary that will be able to provide you with what you need.

In most cases, you’ll be able to choose medical marijuana products on your own. Your provider may recommend specific strains, cannabinoids, or administration methods to try, but products are typically the patient’s choice.

There are a few ways to find a dispensary near you:

  • Check your state’s registry – If you live in a medical-only state (i.e., recreational marijuana isn’t legal in your state yet), dispensaries will likely have to be registered with the state government. The state will maintain a list of these registered dispensaries that you can access when it’s time to find one.
  • Ask your provider – Your medical marijuana doctor may be able to recommend a dispensary near you or one that typically carries the products you’re looking for.
  • Search online – Googling “dispensaries near me” can help you find purveyors close by.

Making the Most of Medical Marijuana for Managing Depression

Medical marijuana is a blanket term for a wide variety of different products. If you’re using marijuana to manage depression, you may find that some products work better for you than others.

And, if you’re wary about getting high or smoking, your state may offer options like:

  • Low-THC products – THC is the only cannabinoid that produces psychoactive effects. If you’re looking to heal without the high, check out our guide to low-THC products.
  • Non-smokable products – Smoking isn’t the only administration method for medical cannabis. Your dispensary may also offer edibles, tinctures, topicals, or capsules.

Your medical marijuana doctor and the budtender at your dispensary can help you find the right choices for you. If something isn’t working, don’t be afraid to bring it up with them and try something new.

Best Practices for Medical Marijuana Use

When beginning to use medical marijuana for depression, it can be helpful to establish a consistent routine. Some things to consider are:

  • Dosages – We recommend starting with small doses and slowly increasing your dose until you begin to feel the effects.
  • The time of day you take it – If you’re planning to use medical cannabis for depression, consider setting aside time to relax and reflect. The specific time will depend on your lifestyle and needs.
  • How often you take it – Depending on your desired effects and supply limitations in your state, you may not choose to use cannabis every day. Regardless, establishing a routine can help you dose intentionally.

If you’re having trouble establishing a routine, or you’re looking for suggestions, your medical marijuana doctor will be an excellent resource.

TeleLeaf: Medical Marijuana Recommendations Made Easy

The road to obtaining medical marijuana can be confusing and tricky to navigate. That’s why TeleLeaf is streamlining the recommendation process—so you can start feeling better, faster.

We’ve been in your position; we know how draining it can be to find effective treatment options for depression, PTSD, anxiety, and chronic pain. That’s why we’re so committed to helping you find the relief you deserve.

Schedule an appointment today and meet with one of our many certified medical marijuana providers for a same-day recommendation.


National Library of Medicine. Treatments for Depression.

National Conference of State Legislatures. State Medical Cannabis Laws.

NORML. California Medical Marijuana Law.

TeleLeaf. What Are the Top Qualifying Medical Conditions for a Medical Marijuana Card in Louisiana?.

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