Patients in the states are being scammed over gaining access to medical cannabis. Fees definitely range, but there is a point where you are paying way too much for a recommendation for medical cannabis.
There are now 33 states, and the District of Columbia, with medical cannabis programs. According to a Pew Research Centre, nearly three-quarters of Americans support access to cannabis for therapeutic purposes. In Canada, in 2017, there were over 200,000 registered medical cannabis patients, and many more medicating without a prescription. With such overwhelming support across North America, you’d think getting a prescription would be easy. You would think there would be standard fees for recommendation for medical cannabis. There is no regulation or oversight on this one yet, so buyer beware.
A recent publication in the Cincinnati Enquirer highlighted this common confusion, which is currently happening in Ohio. The state’s medical cannabis program hasn’t yet launched and already patients, eager to get access, are getting scammed by unscrupulous physicians and organizations selling patient cards. According to the report, there are roughly 300 doctors in the state approved to issue a recommendation for medical cannabis, but the state-run registry isn’t set up.
The theory is that once the registry opens, these physician recommendations will go to the registry. Once accepted, a patient card is issued. It is at that time that patients can access medical cannabis – with the card, not the recommendation. Confused patients are shelling out hundreds of dollars for a recommendation that means very little; patients in Ohio are being sold false hope. This is a common across many legalized states.
What is a Medical Cannabis Recommendation vs. a Prescription?
Oddly, it depends on what you mean by recommendation and also where you live. In Canada, there are no recommendations. Because medical cannabis is legal at a federal level and has been for a while now, doctors are legally allowed to prescribe the plant for medical applications. Medical cannabis prescriptions in Canada are free because the country has universal healthcare. If the physician felt the patient could benefit from cannabis, they would work with the patient to provide access to the national registry program and issue a prescription.
In the US, cannabis is still a federally regulated illicit drug. Even if the majority of states have medical cannabis programs, at the federal level, cannabis is still illegal. As such, doctors cannot prescribe cannabis, instead, they can only issue recommendations.
One received, the patient (or sometimes the doctor) submits the recommendation to the state’s medical cannabis registry. It’s this program which issues the ‘card’. In some states, the patient only needs a recommendation and nothing else.
How Much Should You Pay for a Recommendation?
With 33 states and counting opening up access to medical cannabis, there is a wide variation on how much a cannabis card costs. In Canada, a medical cannabis recommendation costs nothing, beyond the medicine itself. With universal healthcare, a visit to your doctor for any prescription is free no matter what the prescription is for. In the US, it’s a much different matter. Physician recommendations for cannabis have become a big business in some states, and many companies have popped up to sell recommendations through legal loopholes.
Often, there are two different types of physicians offering recommendations. Sometimes your doctor, the one issuing the diagnosis, will be licensed to issue recommendations. In practice, this means the same physician which diagnoses and treats your illness, can also issue the recommendation for cannabis. The other type of physician does not diagnose your illness or treat it. Instead, for a fee, they will look at your medical records, and issue their recommendation. In some cases, the process is done without a medical exam, and entirely online.
The second method, understandably, is prone to scams and disreputable physicians selling access to cannabis without follow up.
If you are in the states, how much should you pay? Registration with the state medical cannabis program is a stable fee, but the rate of a doctor’s recommendation may vary by state, by insurance coverage, and even between doctors. There are no go-to-databases covering these fees on a state by state basis, but below are a few examples pulled from companies operating in a state with legal medical cannabis.
Typically the examples of recommendation charges were sourced from businesses specifically selling medical cannabis recommendations.
Arizona: Recommendation around $75. Registration $150
California: Recommendation as low as $39 (online recommendation). Registration varies by county, but cannot exceed $100.
Florida: Recommendation around $100, Registration $75
Illinois: Recommendation $150 , Registration $100 (one year registration)
Michigan: Recommendation $200, Registration $60
New York: Recommendation roughly $150, Registration $50 (however, the Department of Health is waiving this fee for the time being).
Oregon: Recommendation, varies depending on doctor and country, Registration $200
Despite the relatively high combined fees seen across the US for a recommendation for medical cannabis and state registration, cannabis is usually a much cheaper option for patients, when compared with a conventional prescription. Each state’s medical cannabis registry will provide a detailed guide about the application process and any associated fees.