How to get a legal marijuana prescription
This step-by-step guide will help you understand the basic process of prescription cannabis in Canada
By Ivy Jackson
May 12, 2017
Featured image by @eggrole, via Flickr.
Getting a legal marijuana prescription can seem daunting if you don’t know where to start. It might feel like you have to prove something to your family doctor, despite having tried every other option to relieve your pain/anxiety/sleep disorder/PTSD/etc. But if you want to explore cannabis treatment, the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR) allows you to do so safely, legally and under a doctor’s care.
“If you want to legally access medical cannabis right now, the only way to do that is to get a prescription from a medical doctor or nurse practitioner who is trained to understand your specific concerns,” says Gill Pollard, marketing director at Lift Centre, a resource centre that helps patients navigate the medical cannabis system.
Here’s a beginner’s guide to getting a legal marijuana prescription in Canada, and what to expect once you have it.
Book an appointment with your family doctor
Is cannabis the right treatment for you? Your family physician should help you make an informed decision on whether or not the effects (and, yes, side effects) of medical marijuana will actually alleviate your symptoms. “[Step one is] seeing your physician to explore whether medical cannabis is an appropriate treatment option for you,” says Pollard.
If your primary doctor rejects your initial request, there are other avenues
Don’t feel discouraged. A second opinion, like everything related to your health, is always a good idea. “You can make an appointment at a clinic, like Lift Resource Centre, and speak to one of our specially trained nurse educators who will pre-qualify you,” says Pollard. From there, you’d go on to meet with a physician from the Lift Resource Centre. You can also check out Lift's list of medical marijuana doctors and clinics in Canada.
If consulting a doctor sends you into a cold sweat, spend time before your appointment writing down your health issues and concerns. Nothing calms the nerves like a good list.
Get the right documents signed, sealed and delivered
Once you’ve been given the green light, by law your doctor must provide a document (like this one found on the Government of Canada’s website) with obvious things like your full name and birthdate, as well as more important details like the name and address of your doctor, their license number, as well as the number of grams of marijuana per day you’ve been prescribed. The number of days, weeks or months you can take it will also be included. “If [your] prescription was written by a licensed Canadian medical doctor, it is valid,” says Pollard.
Find a licensed producer that suits your needs
Currently, there are 43 licensed producers (LPs) in Canada where you can legally order your prescription. Once you’ve made your decision, you’ll need to register as a client with your LP of choice by sending them your documentation, including the original prescription.
Know how much you can legally have on your person
Time for a quick math lesson—a really, really important one. Individuals can carry 30 times their daily prescribed amount or less, up to a maximum of 150 grams. So, if you’ve been allotted two grams per day, you can possess your monthly dose of 60 grams. But if your doctor has prescribed you seven grams per day, you’re not allowed to possess the entire month’s supply.
Research your insurance plan
If you have an extended healthcare plan through your employer, it may cover part of your medical cannabis prescription the same way it does with other prescriptions. “You will need to check out your particular plan to make certain,” warns Pollard, so do your homework before submitting a claim.
Always carry the product packaging with you
“You should keep your medical cannabis in the original packaging it arrived in from your licensed producer,” notes Pollard. “The packaging is what is used to validate it. If you are planning to travel with your medication, then you should bring your medical document as well.” So don’t go getting all fancy with how you store and carry the stuff. It is, after all, medicine, and should be treated as such. (And NEVER plan to travel outside Canada with your prescription—this is illegal and could land you in a lot of trouble).
Looking for more information on how to get and use a medical marijuana prescription? Download the Lift Patient Guide here.
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