New Mexico citizens voted in the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act in 2007 which legalized Medical Cannabis and set up guidelines and goals to implement a program by the NM Department of Health. New Mexicans are lucky to have a forward-thinking legislature, but even if you don’t live in New Mexico, this post is full of tips on how to find a medical cannabis practitioner. You should always talk to your general practitioner and/or specialists first. Tell them what you want to do and why. Be ready to offer up as much information as you can as to why you believe cannabis will help you and don’t be surprised if:
2.) You’re met with a hostile opinion.
You’d think that the hostility and stigma issues would be getting less prevalent as more research is done and brought to light and more medical association jump on board, but even in our state, which voted to legalized medical cannabis in 2007, there are many patients struggling to find a doctor in their area that will support them. These docs ARE out there, you just have to be persistent and unrelenting in your search. Sometimes you may have the chance to help educate an eager listener. Most doctors, when faced with the real facts, are at least encouraged to investigate further for themselves. Many will be seeing the light as more research hits the mainstream media, which seems to be a requirement lately in order for anything to get noticed.
Much like law enforcement officers, many doctors have been taught bunk about marijuana and haven’t looked much past that since they were in medical school. That is changing now, and everyday more healthcare practitioners are coming over to join the medical cannabis ranks as they see the most up to date research and information come to light. Large healthcare systems are also an obstacle and many prevent doctors that are part of their system from signing off on their patient’s recommendations forms enabling patient to apply for admission of State Medical Marijuana Programs. Although many doctors will give you their blessing to give it a try, they won’t sign anything that they think may cause them grief later.
In my case here in New Mexico, the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program requires a diagnosis for my qualifying ailment and two signatures. This could be from a medical doctor (MD, DO, whatever…) or a doc and a PA or Nurse Practitioner. It depends on your qualifying ailment as to whether you need one or two signatures, and in some cases, what kind of doctor needs to sign an/or give written diagnosis. Since one of my afflictions is Rheumatoid Arthritis, technically I only needed one signature from a Board Certified Rheumatologist, but I hit a snafu. There are no Rheumatologists in the State of NM that are willing to go there yet. Not one will sign on with the program for their patients and that is both sad and ridiculous. My Rheumatologist and her practice partners had a meeting and decided to not cooperate with the paperwork their patients would need to apply for the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program, but she said she had no problem with me following this course of treatment, and seemed interested to hear some feedback from me. She also said she would rather I didn’t smoke it, but they all say that. I am saddened that doctors aren’t more interested, informed and are afraid of the Federal Government, but it’s a fact we have to live with for now. I’m glad I had her blessing since I couldn’t get her freaking signature.
The next step for me was to file my paperwork under the category of chronic pain. This is a vague area for everyone and so they want two medical professionals to interview, examine and assess your needs. To make it all more simple I collected my medical records from all my doctors that I had seen for any and all of my arthritis issues. These records can be used by a Medical Marijuana specialist, (in my case a Pain Specialist), in assessment AND for the application process. Without a written diagnosis from a specialist, (in the form of your medical records), the Pain Specialist here can do nothing. They can’t come up with a diagnosis on their own based on xrays or lab work. They must also review to see if you have tried and failed with traditional treatments, (another qualifier). My next step, with records in hand, was to find one of these docs.
Here the pond can get a little murky, as there are people out there who will charge to “counsel you”, meaning to help you get the forms ready and and set you up with doctor(s) and nurse practitioner(s) to get you through the process. This isn’t a step you have to take. In New Mexico, these forms may be obtained easily at our state’s Health Department website, AND the Medical Cannabis doctors usually have them too. These consulting entities call it “medical marijuana counseling”, but it really is a crock. You can get all the info you need from the doctor and bypass their hype, spiels and extra costs.
If you live in a state that has legalized marijuana for medical use, you will find willing and enthusiastic medical cannabis doctors for your area online, so choose a couple, do your interviewing by phone, pick one that you feel comfortable with and make an appointment. A good choice also is to find a doc/practice that will provide you both signatures (if needed) in one visit if you are anxious to get on with it quickly. I think one visit to the doctor is always more favorable than two.
If you are seeing two practitioners, at least one of them should do a thorough exam upon reviewing you medical records, including blood pressure, e-n-t, weight, etc. and in my case I had an exam of all the trigger points to confirm fibromyalsia. I was at the office for almost two hours answering and asking questions and having the examination. You should never feel rushed or leave without all your questions answered. These specialty practitioners are usually very informed and are passionate enough about medical cannabis that they are willing to defy the medical establishment and ignore ridicule from peers by being in this type of practice in the first place. Yet these are the practitioners that are actually in the know, and who closely follow the latest research and studies.
Upon leaving the office I was holding a completed Medical Cannabis Application that needed only an envelope, my signatures and some stamps.
In closing today, I will leave you with this… so far I have found that I know more about medical marijuana uses and research that any of the doctors I have spoken with so far, and this is a sad fact, because most of them are really clueless and this is so unfortunate. In their defense, they are just regular people with busy lives, jobs, and families who don’t feel inclined to go off on their own to follow every medical journal, article and research paper out there. How can they? And if they don’t have a personal interest in a topic they will rarely look into anything new, (just like the rest of us). It has to be brought to their attention, and I thank God that America’s favorite celebrity doctor, Sanjay Gupta, felt that need, did some investigating, and reversed his 2009 position on Marijuana as Medicine. If you missed that on CNN in August, 2013, check out what Dr Gupta had to say on the CNN web site. It’s pretty important stuff, folks.