Medical cannabis is now accessible in three dozen states and the District of Columbia. More states are likely to get on board this year (2021) and next. Still, only a few have completely decriminalized marijuana across the board. Unless you live in one of those states, you can only access medical cannabis after getting a state-issued card proving your eligibility.
Known as medical cannabis cards, the documents can be printed, electronic, or both. Most states with medical cannabis card programs require patients to show their cards whenever they visit a dispensary. Without a valid card, admission to a dispensary might not be allowed.
States utilize card programs in different ways as dictated by their respective laws. With that said, here are some things to know about medical cannabis cards before you apply:
1. They Are Not Permanent
States do not issue medical cannabis cards on a permanent basis. In other words, you will not be able to apply once and then never have to worry about it again. Nearly every state that allows for medical cannabis requires cards to be renewed on a regular schedule. Renewal frequency depends on the state.
Utahmarijuana.org says the Beehive State’s current regulations place a 90-day limit on a patient’s first medical marijuana card. Upon renewal, the new card is valid for six months. There is talk of switching from 90 days and six months to six months and one year. At any rate, patients are required to consult with their medical providers in order to renew their cards.
2. Some States Offer Provisional Cards
There are some states that offer provisional cards to new and renewing patients as a means of providing uninterrupted access to cannabis products while their applications make their way through state approval. A provisional card is just that. It is a temporary card that allows you to possess medical cannabis while you await a decision on your application.
Provisional cards can be rescinded by the state for a number of reasons. As such, they have to be used with great care. Utah doesn’t yet have a provisional card system in place, but rule makers are working on it.
3. Not a License for Recreational Use
New patients should be aware of the fact that a medical cannabis card is not a license to use cannabis recreationally. In most medical cannabis states, Utah included, recreational use is still banned. Patients are allowed to buy only limited amounts of product during a dispensary visit. If they buy black market product for supplemental recreational use, they are in violation of the rules governing their medical cannabis cards.
4. Cards Are Not Prescriptions
One of the most confusing aspects of medical cannabis cards is the purpose they actually served. A card indicates that the patient has consulted with a medical provider who has subsequently recommended medical cannabis as a treatment for a qualifying condition. A card is not a prescription.
Utah is among the states looking to align medical cannabis recommendations more closely with traditional prescriptions. Until that happens, it is really up to patients to work with their doctors and pharmacists to determine what products are most appropriate and in what doses.
The medical cannabis card represents one way for states to allow patients to utilize medical cannabis while at the same time keeping things under control. Having to obtain and renew a card may be inconvenient, but medical cannabis has to be controlled like any other prescription medication. It cannot be allowed to be a free-for-all. If for no other reason, the need to maintain control makes the medical cannabis card a good thing.