Navigating the confusing and complex world of medical marijuana in Colorado

by DGO Editor

Trying to figure out how to get your medical weed card? Here’s everything you need to know.

When it comes to buying cannabis, most of us default to picking up some recreational weed rather than trying to overcome the hurdles that are tied to medical marijuana. After all, recreational weed is widely available in the state — and if you’re over 21, you can buy it anywhere it’s sold. So what on earth would you need medical weed for, anyway?

Well, the answer is a lot — provided you’re using cannabis to help with pain or other chronic ailments.

If you’re using weed for medical purposes, applying for a medical card in Colora-do can be a big benefit. For starters, the age restrictions placed on recreational weed are a lot more flexible with medical cannabis, and so are the THC potency limits in edibles.

While edible packages on the rec side of a dispensary are limited to having a maximum of 100 mg of THC in them, the rules on the med side allow for a lot more THC in these products. That alone can be a lifesaver if you’re dealing with a chronic health issue that needs to be medicated.

The tax you pay is a lot different, too. Retail marijuana in Colorado is subject to a 15% sales tax, which is levied on retail sales, and a 15% excise tax, which is levied on the first transfer of marijuana from a wholesaler to a processor or retailer. That can add up very quickly.

On the other hand, medical cannabis in the state of Colorado is exempt from the 15%sales tax and 15% excise tax. For some users, that could mean the difference between being able to afford their medicine and having to go without.

And, there are lots of other benefits too, provided you qualify for a medical marijuana card. But navigating the process of getting a card can be tricky, so it’s important to know what you’re facing before you start. Here’s a quick guide to help you navigate the process.

First things first: Do you qualify for a medical marijuana card?

If you want to qualify for a medical marijuana card in Colorado, you’ll need to meet three basic requirements. You’ll have to be a resident of the state of Colorado, you’ll need to be 18 years
or older, and you’ll need to have proof that you qualify via one of the approved medical conditions.

Minors can also qualify for medical marijuana cards in some cases, Minors are eligible for a medical marijuana card if the minor and the primary parent are Colorado residents and the minor has a qualifying medical condition. All minor patients must see two providers and submit two provider certifications.

The qualifying medical conditions for all patients in the state of Colorado include:
Debilitating medical conditions:

Cancer
Glaucoma
HIV or AIDS
Cachexia
Persistent muscle spasms
Seizures
Severe nausea
Severe pain

Disabling medical conditions:

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) An Autism Spectrum Disorder
Any condition for which a physician could prescribe an opioid

Your health care provider needs to write a provider certification for you and then submit it electronically. From there, you’ll need to finish the rest of your application within six months of the date your provider certification was issued.

You’ll also need to pay the fee, which is about $30 total for the application costs.

It’s also important to note that as of January 2022, first-time medical marijuana card applicants in Colorado who are 18-20 years old will need to submit certifications from two providers from two different medical practices during the application process. If the patient is homebound the providers do not need to be from different practices.

Patients that have a valid registry identification card prior to Jan. 1, 2022, will maintain their current registration. From there, the state will review your application and either approve or deny it, which typically takes about 1-3 days on average. It can take longer, though, if there are issues with your application.

Is a medical marijuana prescription necessary?

While you need a letter of recommendation from a qualified medical doctor or two to get a medical card in this state, a prescription for medical weed is not required after you’re approved for your card. You can simply walk into a dispensary that offers medical cannabis and follow their process for purchasing medical marijuana. Simple(ish).

Note, though, that medical marijuana providers are getting more and more difficult to find in the state, so you may have to do some research to find one in your area. It may also be difficult to find doctors who offer medical marijuana exams to patients, especially in or around Durango.

Over the last few years, there have been a limited number of providers offering these services, so it may require you to do some driving — or make some phone calls — to find your options.

How do you find the right dispensary?

Medical marijuana is available at dispensaries — but not all dispensaries hold licenses for both medical and recreational weed. An online search should give you an idea of who you can visit in your area. Check their website and customer reviews to get a clearer picture of their services. You can ask around to find out who other medical marijuana patients are using or recommend. That’s typically the easiest way to figure out what the options are.

How to tell the quality of medical marijuana

First of all, a good dispensary is one that is open to answering your questions about their products and service. You should then ask if their products are tested at a lab, what forms the cannabis comes in, and whether or not the products are organic or contain pesticides.

Ask to see supporting documentation and licensing.

Cannabis growers and manufacturers have to adhere to very strict rules. These are rules that govern how the plant should be grown, harvested, tested, and dispensed. If a provider displays an aversion to regulations, it is likely that their medical marijuana contains chemical compounds it is not supposed to or is not appropriately licensed.

Buying medical cannabis without prior experience

Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to have any prior knowledge or history of cannabis use to purchase from a dispensary. There should be a consultant willing to guide you through different products when you arrive.

What documentation do I need in order to buy medical marijuana?

Once you are verified as a medical marijuana user, your provider will also issue a card that you should present at every purchase.

In addition to your medical marijuana card, you’ll need to take your ID with you to the dispensary. That’s a requirement for every single person who steps foot in the dispensary. You show your ID, they verify, and you’re allowed in. There’s no way around it.

How do you take medical marijuana?

Once you have chosen a licensed dispensary, you can ask the budtender about the different ways you can use medical marijuana. The greater the range, the better. It is usually available as fresh cannabis flowers, infused oils, tinctures, capsules, gummies, and ointments.

Health conditions can be treated with capsules, gummies, tinctures, and other forms that are taken orally.

Those with chronic pain can benefit from topical ointments or lotions. You can also inhale or smoke medical marijuana using vaporizers or vaping pens, or smoke the herb directly.
How much does medical marijuana cost — and how much should I buy?
It is advisable to start by purchasing small quantities of different strains. Two to four types of marijuana strains should do. You can smell each one and choose according to the aroma that appeals most to you. Then ask the consultant if your chosen strains are best for day or nighttime use.

Ask the consultant about the THC and CBD content of each strain. The higher the THC of the strain, the more likely it is to be psychoactive. In other words, it may make you “high.” CBD content does not affect the mind in that way and is usually recommended for health disorders.

Fresh cannabis flowers may be best for a first-time purchase. This is because they are not as processed as other products and do not come in packaging that may contaminate the herb.

If you prefer tinctures, you can use a common guideline when it comes to their potency, which is 10-50 milligrams per milliliter.

What are the side effects of medical marijuana?

The effects of marijuana are as varied as the strains at the dispensaries. In reality, there is no sure way to know how it will affect you until you try it. It is also possible that the same cannabis strain you chose in the past will give you different side effects to previous uses. This is because plants of the same species can contain different amounts of chemicals or cannabinoids.

As such, there’s no real way to determine what the side effects will be for you. You’ll have to try it — and finding the right option can feel a little like trial and error for a while. But it typically ends up being worth it to most users in the end when they get some relief from the plant.

Whatever you do, though, try to stick it out for a while to see if you can find the right mix. Cannabis can be a super helpful tool in the fight against chronic pain or other ailments, but as with any medicine, the results aren’t always apparent overnight, nor are the potential medicines that work for your body apparent from the start.

Take your time, start slow, and listen to the experts. That’s the best way to figure out what the right option is for you.

Tips for passing a medical marijuana evaluation

The medical marijuana evaluation, the most important part of that process, can be challenging. Here’s what you should know about how to pass it prior to get-ting an appointment with a provider. What happens at a medical marijuana evaluation?

In most cases, a medical marijana evaluation takes about a half hour to complete, and requires that you answer questions about your medical condition. Then, the doctor performing the evalu-ation takes a decision on whether your condition justifies the use of medical marijuana.

What should you remember to take to your evaluation?

There are two things you must take to your medical marijuana evaluation. The first is your government ID, which should be the one issued by your state. You need it to prove that you are a resident.

If you don’t have an ID, a utility bill in your name may work, but you’ll have to find out beforehand if it’s an option for proving residency.

You also need to bring all your medical records to prove to the evaluating doctor that your medical condition is serious enough to require marijuana use. In general, you should bring prescriptions, test reports, and if you have it, paperwork that proves that you are on disability.

What should you be prepared for at the medical evaluation?

You may take a medical marijuana evaluation online or in person. If you’re taking it online, you will need to fill a few forms on the computer before you are ready to go. With in-person evaluations, you are given a patient intake file with forms to fill out. The doctor usually asks you questions about your lifestyle, and the treatments that you undergo for your medical conditions. A few medical tests may be required.

If the doctor believes that your case does justify the use of medical marijuana, they will ask you questions to determine that you understand the risks and benefits of such marijuana use. Demonstrating understanding is an important part of the process.

Remember to take the process seriously

It’s important to approach a medical marijuana evaluation with a positive frame of mind. You should remember that the doctor conducting the evaluation has the power to change your life with his decision. Politeness and cheerfulness can count for a lot.

It’s also important to remember that the process helps doctors evaluate that you require marijuana for medical purposes, rather than recreational ones. It can be helpful to refrain from talking about how you enjoy marijuana.

Buying marijuana after the evaluation In Colorado you need to submit the doctor’s recommendation to the state office that issues medical marijuana cards. It takes a few days on average to get an answer about the status of your application, but if all of your paperwork is in order, you’ll likely hear back within that time frame.

Otherwise, it could take a minute to process your paperwork — and may require more work on your end if your ducks aren’t in a row beforehand.

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