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Overcoming the Stigma: Talking to Your Doctor About Medical Cannabis

    • Talking to your healthcare provider about medical cannabis can be challenging if your provider isn’t educated on the healing potential of marijuana.

 

    • Patients should be prepared to advocate for themselves, do their own research, initiate conversations early, and even switch providers if needed.

 

    • There are resources available for patients looking for cannabis-informed providers—TeleLeaf is here to help.

 


So, you’re considering trying medical cannabis for rheumatoid arthritis, nausea prevention, or another health issue. In many states (Louisiana included), that means it’s time to start a conversation with a healthcare provider.

Cannabis (even when used intentionally for medical purposes) is still highly stigmatized—even in the medical community. Since many of the tenets of marijuana healing practices are in direct opposition to the Western medical model, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. But what should you do when you’ve exhausted your traditional options and you’re ready to give medical cannabis a try?

This guide is here to help you navigate the process: we’re offering tips for conversations with your provider, example scripts, and a comprehensive breakdown of the medical card application process in Louisiana and beyond. (And, if you’re looking for LA medical marijuana doctors, we can help with that, too!)

Tips for Starting a Conversation About Medical Marijuana with Your Healthcare Provider

Young black doctor explaining treatment plan to male patientReady to talk to your doctor about medical marijuana for back pain, migraines, or something else? Here are four tips for success.

Be Prepared to Advocate for Yourself

Unfortunately, you may encounter some pushback from your provider when asking about medical cannabis. As a result, you’ll need to advocate for yourself to get the care you deserve.

If you’re not used to asserting yourself at the doctor’s office, here are some tips:

  • Write down everything you want to say – If you have a hard time speaking up, consider preparing a script or jotting down some notes in advance.
  • Bring a friend or loved one – If you don’t mind talking about your medical needs in front of a close friend or relative, consider bringing them to your appointment to help you advocate for yourself.
  • Develop a mantra – You deserve to be here, and you deserve to heal: keep these truths in mind as you approach your provider.

Do Your Homework

Whether you’re considering medical cannabis for insomnia or nutritional support during cancer treatment, there is likely data on your specific use case available online. Bringing this evidence to your provider may help you make your case for a medical marijuana recommendation.

There are two key types of data to consider as you prepare:

  1. Clinical studies – While clinical studies (especially those exploring alternative healing methods like cannabis) can be biased or have a limited scope, they can also feature large data pools of patients and their responses. In some instances, they may help you make your case.
  2. Anecdotal evidence – In short, the medical industry is behind the curve of cannabis knowledge, applications, and technologies. But there are countless patient testimonials out there explaining how impactful medical cannabis can be. While they may not have been collected in a clinical setting, these stories offer critical qualitative data.

Start Conversations Early

Instead of waiting until your appointment time to broach the subject, consider telling your provider ahead of time that you want to discuss medical cannabis.

Why start this conversation early? Because it will keep you from wasting time if your provider is vehemently opposed to medical marijuana treatment. This will give you the chance to redirect your efforts elsewhere—in other words, find a provider willing to listen to your concerns and ideas.

Find a Provider That’s Right for You

If your primary provider won’t consider recommending medical cannabis, it may be time to turn to a new provider: one with an open mind or an interest in non-traditional healing options.

While you can check out our full guide to finding a medical marijuana provider, here are some highlights:

  • Look for providers who show empathy for your situation and have an open mind.
  • Consider asking other patients in your area for provider recommendations.
  • Call a dispensary or pharmacy and ask if they have a provider directory.
  • Don’t be afraid to shop around for the right fit.

While you should feel free to look for providers until you find a good match, keep in mind that medical cannabis might not be the best treatment for you. While medical marijuana has a wide variety of clinical applications, cannabis-informed providers are the most qualified to determine whether or not you’re a good candidate for cannabis treatment.

Example Scripts and Conversation-Starters

Here are a few example scripts you can use to start a conversation with a healthcare provider:

  • “I’m interested in trying medical cannabis for anxiety. I’ve tried other options, but they haven’t offered the results I’m looking for. Can we talk about incorporating medical marijuana into my treatment plan?”
  • “I’ve used marijuana for sleep before, but I’m interested in obtaining cannabis legally. Can we talk through the process of applying for a medical card?”

If your provider is hesitant to recommend medical cannabis, but they have an open mind, here are a few responses you can use to make your case:

  • “There are a few studies exploring medical marijuana for nerve pain, and these show promising results. Not to mention the mountain of anecdotal evidence to support a connection between cannabis and pain relief. I really think there’s healing potential here that’s worth exploring.”
  • “I’m not interested in using prescriptions with high dependence potential, and marijuana isn’t addictive. It also has a side effect profile that falls within my risk tolerance.”
  • “It’s safe to combine cannabis with some prescription medications. Is there a way that I could use cannabis as a complementary treatment or transition away from pharmaceuticals?”

If your provider outright refuses to recommend medical cannabis, here are some scripts you can use to get more information:

  • “I want to understand your position. Can you explain why you don’t think it’s a good idea for me to use medical cannabis?”
  • “What do your colleagues say about medical marijuana? What’s the clinical consensus for people with my condition right now?”
  • “I understand your unwillingness to try medical marijuana, but I’m going to get a second opinion. Can you please provide a copy of my medical records to take to a different provider?”

How to Get a Medical Marijuana Card in Louisiana

With all of the above in mind, let’s dive into the medical marijuana application process in Louisiana (TeleLeaf’s home state) specifically.

First, it’s important to understand that Louisiana doesn’t issue physical medical marijuana cards. Instead, providers offer a recommendation and send that recommendation directly to a cannabis pharmacy. But since “medical card” is a colloquial term, we’ll continue to use it here.

Luckily, the process is relatively simple for Louisians:

  1. Find a provider – In Louisiana, any licensed healthcare provider can recommend medical cannabis; they can also recommend it for any condition or any patient (though there are restrictions for minors).
  2. Get a recommendation – If you and your provider decide that medical cannabis could be a good fit for you, they’ll provide a medical recommendation. This is similar to a prescription, but it’s not exactly the same. Your provider will either send your recommendation directly to a cannabis pharmacy (the simplest route) or you can take your recommendation to any pharmacy you’d like.
  3. Visit a pharmacy – Called “dispensaries” in other states, Louisiana’s medical marijuana pharmacies are the only place patients can legally purchase regulated, tested, and safe cannabis products. Pharmacy workers (affectionately called “budtenders”) can help you choose your ideal product.

How to Apply for a Medical Cannabis Card in Other States

The process in states with medical marijuana legalization isn’t unlike the process in Louisiana. But keep in mind that some states:

  • Only allow specific providers to recommend medical cannabis—you may not be able to get one from your regular primary care provider
  • Issue a physical medical card that you’ll need to bring with you (along with an ID or any other required documents) to the dispensary
  • Only legalize recommendations for specific conditions (these lists of conditions are typically available on your state’s website)
  • Require patients to complete an application process after they receive a recommendation

However, the process is essentially the same in every state with medical marijuana legalization: find a provider who can provide a recommendation, complete any required paperwork, and bring your medical card to a dispensary.

TeleLeaf: Connecting Patients with Cannabis-Informed Providers

Ready to start a conversation with a healthcare provider about medical cannabis? Instead of searching around town for providers, start here: TeleLeaf is today’s best online medical marijuana card service provider.

Our licensed providers meet with you via a secure telehealth platform, talk through your concerns, and help you decide if medical cannabis is right for you. And, if you need to complete any extra paperwork to access pharmacies or dispensaries in your state, we can help with that, too.

TeleLeaf is here to connect patients with the all-natural, plant-based healing they deserve. Get started now.


Sources:

WebMD. Fight for Your Rights As a Patient.
https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/health-care-21/health-care-patient-rights

Frontiers in Research Metrics and Analytics. Epistemic Corruption, the Pharmaceutical Industry, and the Body of Medical Science.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8028448/

Louisiana Department of Health. Medical Marijuana Regulation.
https://ldh.la.gov/page/medical-marijuana

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