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Some Things You May Wanna Know About Medical Cannabis From Someone on the Program and Not an Actual Medical Doctor or Anything

You’ve got questions? We’ve got answers.

a hand holding tongs over a scale loaded up with cannabis flower
Add Weed via Unsplash

OK, so low-dose weed edibles are legal now. But if you have severe or chronic pain, or PTSD, or Alzheimer’s, maybe you’ve wondered if it still makes sense to explore the state’s medical cannabis program.

Before I get into the actual meat and potatoes of this I want to stress: I’m just a person on the program. I’m also a person that really loves weed and what it does for me and in my life. I hope this helps someone, and if you have any questions please visit the Minnesota Department of Health.

Do I qualify for the medical cannabis program?

In the state of Minnesota if you fall into any of these arbitrary categories your doctor can recommend you for the Minnesota medical program. Now, only a certain number of doctors have put themselves on this program to be able to register their patients. How do you know if your doctor is a provider? Ask them! The state doesn’t have a list of providers, and there are some third-party sources you can use to search, but honestly going to your doctor first is best.

I was on narcotics for pain management and was trying CBD to help with my chronic pain when my doctor suggested medical cannabis. He was okay with CBD, but there was no way to confirm it was good and safe, so he wanted me to get the legit stuff. I was signed up for medical cannabis on the spot and received an email to register while still in his office. I did the application, was approved in a couple days, and was in a dispensary very shortly after. 

How much does the program cost?

During the application process they’re going to need some identifying items. You’ll upload documents like an ID, and then they’ll ask you for money. Yes, just to be in the fucking program you need to fork over $200. To literally just have a string of numbers, because we don’t have actual cards here. (If you ever need to prove you are on the program keep a screenshot of your information from the registration site handy.)

The only way you don’t pay $200 is if you’re on the medical assistance program or disabled; you can find more info about that here. The discounted rate is $50. Also, if you’re on MA and qualify for the discounted rate you may also have a discount every time you visit your dispensary of choice, just ask them.

And yes—you pay this fee every year. 

Why am I paying so much money upfront to just be on your silly little program to smoke some silly little weed? But anyways… 

OK, I have my medical cannabis patient number, what now?

In the state of Minnesota you have two dispensary companies to get your medical cannabis from, Leafline Labs and GreenGoods

During your first appointment the pharmacist will answer your questions and show you options for concentrates, edibles, flower, etc. They’ll also show you how to use the products and if you need any additional items for them like a vaporizer device, rolling papers, bongs/water pipes, and grinders. 

You may use your credit or debit card here, but cash is king. There’s an ATM at all locations and there is also an app called CanPay where you… can pay. Many credit card companies and banks want nothing to do with weed. It doesn’t matter if it’s legal, it’s just a no for them since use is regulated from state to state. So if your card declines? It’s them, not you (or it may be you, I don’t know your financial situation!!).

There are so many options. How do I decide?

Please utilize the help of the pharmacists when you go in, because remember: This is medicine. And while yes, weed is safe and natural and from the earth etc. it is still a DRUG you’re adding to your system, and you probably already have a cocktail of drugs going on in your body if you’re on the program, let’s be real here. 

If you’re like me and didn’t smoke weed before you were on the program, sites like WikiLeaf, Leafly, and Weedmaps can guide you. They have most of the strains listed, and reviews help so much because dropping like $50 bucks on a strain that SUCKS is the worst. 

Both Leafline Labs and Green Goods list their offerings online for anyone to see, along with pricing, strain information, and pictures. 

I wanna try everything. Is there a limit to how much you can purchase in one appointment?

In most cases, no. Sometimes new items are introduced, and in an effort to make sure all patients have access they may limit you, but only for the first few days. You may also go in every single day and get as much cannabis as you want. These dispensaries want your money, they’re not gonna stop you! 

That being said, cannabis dependency is real, and if you or anyone else you know may have a problem consider checking in with the pharmacist or your doctor. 

So I’ve been on the program a little while now, I was wondering: Can I travel with my medical cannabis?

Technically, no. You can’t take your medicine that helps you with your chronic pain/illness, PTSD, and a variety of other ailments out of the state that prescribed it for you, no exceptions. 

…That doesn’t make sense?

Of course it doesn’t! This is America.

But seriously, traveling domestically with weed is a no. Traveling internationally it’s a hellllll no. Just be fucking careful. 

Okay so I’m about to have a major surgery, does the hospital checking me in give me my medical cannabis?

This is a case by case thing when it comes to hospitals here in Minnesota. But they’re not gonna bring it up, you have to take control of your care. 

I can speak for my own experience this past summer at the University of Minnesota. I let them know before surgery: I’m on medical cannabis, and if they’re planning on putting me on any painkillers please just be aware of my current intake of this drug that is very much in my system right now, you know?

Also I did my own research about anesthesia and the effects on people with high cannabis use. I was told to stop the use of cannabis 48 hours before surgery, but if I couldn’t it wasn’t a problem. So like? Don’t? Like seriously look at these directions:

I saw my anesthesiologist before he put me under and I STRESSED I am literally full of weed and he needed to double up on the knockout juice because I’m not trying to accidentally wake up during the surgery. He assured me I was fine and was aware cannabis patients may need a little more of the good stuff. 

When I was out of surgery, that was a whole other thing. They told me I was allowed to bring my medicine as long as it was in concentrated form only. It had to be unopened (so I had to purchase NEW bottles of pills from the dispensary; anything I already had with a broken seal wouldn’t work) and in a lockbox that had to stay with my mom until I was in my room after surgery. 

Thankfully Tylenol was more than enough to take care of me in the hospital. When I got back home, I resumed cannabis use immediately by using it in tincture form in smoothies and teas in conjunction with the pills I already take. 

I’m having concerns with my medical cannabis and possible side effects with new drugs. Do I talk to my doctor or my pharmacist at the dispensary? 

You should consider talking to both, but your doctor in many cases just signs you up for the program—they can’t give you much insight. It’s really at their discretion and depends how much they know about the program. 

Medical cannabis comes up on your MyChart, so they’re aware you’re on it, mainly so they remember that before prescribing you new drugs or treatment. 

I cannot stress how much cannabis has helped my life. It hasn’t taken the pain away, but it provides me comfort without fucking up my health any further by continuing to use Percocet. I love how it makes me feel, and I enjoy smoking socially with other folks—many of whom are on the program as well. I want to stress there’s no shame in enjoying a drug that also provides you with relief from whatever you’re going through. That’s on or off the program—just because this is regulated use doesn’t mean it’s the “better” way to use it. This drug has helped so many people, and I want others to feel the same relief I do without going through some oppressive application process that doesn’t cover even half of the medical conditions that it should.

Overall, the best part about medical cannabis is I can treat my pain in a variety of ways, and I choose the dosage. How many drugs are safe enough for you to decide how much you need at no harm to you? Also while cannabis is not harmful, remember cannabis dependency is a thing and that is harmful. If you or someone you know may have that, consider starting with your doctor and pharmacist first so they can get you in the right direction.