How to get qualified for Medical Marijuana 101
As the stigmas associated with the use of marijuana begin to fade away, more and more people are wondering if they meet the qualifications needed to obtain a physician’s recommendation to use it.
How does it work?
In order to qualify for the Medical Use of Marijuana (MUM) program and obtain a Hawaii State issued Authorization Card, a patient first must have a documented or very obvious qualifying condition. Then a physician (MD or DO) or their team member must interview and examine the patient. If the healthcare professional is satisfied he/she will then have the patient fill out state forms which must be signed by both the patient and doctor. Some of the forms must be completed online. Eventually all forms will be completed on line with the Department of Health (DOH). The office then files these forms with the DOH. The DOH mails the Authorization Card to the doctor’s office. The doctor must sign the card and then issue it to the patient. The turn abound time after starting the process varies from about 3-6 weeks. The physician or the DOH can revoke the card if the rules are not followed. The DOH will send forms back to the physician if they are not filled out exactly right.
The state of Hawaii recognizes the following conditions:
Persistent Muscle Spasms
Seizures & Epilepsy
HIV+ / AIDS
Cachexia (extreme weight loss)
The DOH fee is $38.50. Fees for the physician and processing vary with each office. Typically an additional $150-300 is charged. Most physicians are unable to bill health insurance for this specific service and the law makes no provision for insurance to cover the cost. You must bring in an unexpired Hawaii driver’s license / state ID, US Passport or other State/Federal ID. The card must be renewed every year.
So how can I do this?
Most physicians require a condition to have existed for at least 6 months to be considered chronic. Additionally the qualifying condition typically has to debilitate your life in some way. You should have “tried” several conventional treatments before starting MUM.
Debilitate is defined as; weakening, lack of strength. There are many symptoms that can be reported to the physician in order to establish debilitation. They can include things like: no longer able to participate in sports or prolonged activities, loss of work endurance, loss of sleep, loss of body range of motion, impact intolerance, weakness, fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, unwanted weight loss. Mental health conditions are not currently recognized as qualifying conditions in Hawaii. However, problems like depression, anxiety and loss of concentration can be listed to support the debilitation aspect of the qualifying condition.
What conventional treatments should I try first?
Even if you don’t like pharmaceutical drugs, it is much easier for the physician to recommend MUM if you have at least tried them. For example, you seek a recommendation based on low back pain that started after a car collision 1 year ago. If you first went to an emergency room or an urgent care center, they probably offered you some muscle relaxers and an opioid like Vicodin for the initial pain. Even if you just tried a couple of them and they made you sick, that would count as having tried a conventional treatment. There are many conventional treatments out there. Things like: prescription drugs, visits to a physical / occupational therapist, medical devised like TENs units, procedures like surgery, steroid injections etc. On your own you can try NSAID drugs like ibuprofen, Naproxen, asprin. Analgesics like Tylenol. Hot / cold packs. Home exercise, yoga, Tai-Chi, herbs/natural supplements etc.
But I don’t like doctors!
If conventional medicine isn’t your thing you can visit a chiropractor, acupuncturist or naturopathic doctor for natural options. These types of professional should be able to give you official documentation to build your case with, or at least write you a letter explaining what they offered you and their assessment. Don’t be afraid to be upfront with them about what you want and need.
Records from massage therapists and various bodyworkers will support your case, but they aren’t licensed to diagnose, so their work usually isn’t enough on its own.
Bring in your medical records.
Medical records that relate to the qualifying condition are the simplest way to “back up” your story. If you have seen any healthcare professionals about your qualifying condition or symptoms related to it, request a copy of the progress notes. Imaging reports from a radiologist are great. This is the report that was written about any x-rays or MRIs that may have been done. Most doctors would rather see the report than to have to look at the images. Most clinics or hospitals will issue you a copy of your records. They need a signed release form which they can provide. Save your records in case you have to change doctors. Alternatively you can have the clinic that is seeing you about MUM, request the records directly. Old records are good for establishing a chronic condition. If the records are many years old it is best to combine them with a related office visit done in the last year. Each physician, however, sets their own standards for what is acceptable.
So what do I get for doing all this?
The DOH officially took over the MUM program on January 1st, 2015 from the. Department of Public Safety / NED. Healthcare professionals are now running the program instead of affiliates of the police. As a card holder you are allowed to posses up to 4oz of marijuana and to grow up to 7 plants of any size or maturity. You are protected from Local and State prosecution as long as you follow the guidelines. For more info here is a link directly to the DOH MUM program.
In January 2015 the dispensary task force made official recommendations to the legislature for a bill to create marijuana dispensaries in Hawaii. With luck a bill will be created and become law as soon as June 2015. With dispensaries, card holders will be able to shop at a store for a variety of marijuana products. The range of quality, effect and form of medicine is truly mind blowing for those who have only been able to get random samples of marijuana on the street.
With the growing body of positive scientific evidence and all of the recent political and social changes, using marijuana for your health is making more sense than ever.