Can You Get Medical Marijuana for Rheumatoid Arthritis in Utah?

About one in five Utah adults lives with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and some are considering a unique treatment option: medical marijuana. But can you actually get medical marijuana for rheumatoid arthritis in Utah? And does it work? The answers are a bit complicated.

What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis is a condition that causes moderate to severe joint inflammation. While it can take hold at any age, it’s most common in people aged 65 and older. In fact, as many as half of all senior citizens experience some degree of RA. Symptoms can flare up intermittently, and they include:

• Joint pain and swelling
• Joint tenderness
• Difficulty using the hands for basic tasks like tying shoes
• Fever
• Fatigue

Nobody knows the exact cause of RA, but genetics may play a big role. We do know that it’s an autoimmune condition that occurs when the body’s own immune system attacks healthy tissue. We just don’t know what triggers these types of misfires.

If you speak to a doctor about obtaining medical marijuana for your rheumatoid arthritis, it’s very important to establish that you have RA in the first place. The symptoms of RA are similar to those of other autoimmune conditions, so your doctor can help to ensure that you don’t have another underlying problem. This may be achieved with physical exams, blood tests, imaging tests, and joint aspirations.

Does Cannabis Treat Rheumatoid Arthritis?

While few studies have looked at RA specifically, a growing body of research supports the use of cannabis as an anti-inflammatory. One recent review did look at the effects of cannabinoids on rheumatoid arthritis specifically.

The researchers looked at the specific interactions between cannabinoids and the body’s natural cannabinoid receptors and found that cannabinoid type 2 receptors (CB2) may be instrumental in reducing RA-related inflammation by decreasing cytokine production and immune cell mobilization. The researchers also observed that CBD, one of the individual cannabinoids found in marijuana, exhibited its own anti-arthritic effects. While more research is still needed, the researchers concluded that cannabis might be useful in the treatment of RA.

In cases of severe RA, medical marijuana might not be enough to eliminate symptoms entirely. If the pain persists, a doctor might also recommend physical therapy, the use of splints, or even surgery to correct any deformities caused by RA. An artificial joint may be required to replace any severely damaged joints.

Medical Marijuana Cards for Rheumatoid Arthritis in Utah?

If you suffer from severe RA, you might qualify for medical marijuana in Utah. Rheumatoid arthritis is not listed among the state’s qualifying conditions, but the chronic pain resulting from severe RA may qualify you.

The Utah Department of Health lists the following among its qualifying conditions: “Pain lasting longer than two weeks that is not adequately managed, in the qualified medical provider’s opinion, despite treatment attempts using conventional medications other than opioids or opiates or physical interventions.”

So, in order to qualify, you’ll need to demonstrate that your RA is a source of chronic pain. You’ll also need to demonstrate that you’ve attempted, unsuccessfully, to manage your RA with conventional medications. These may include analgesics (painkillers), NSAIDs, disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), or glucocorticoids.

How to Get Medical Marijuana for Rheumatoid Arthritis in Utah

In order to qualify for a Utah medical marijuana card for RA:

• You must be a legal Utah resident
• You must obtain a physician’s recommendation
• You must register with the Utah Department of Health and pay the $15 application fee

The first step is to apply online. Then you must meet with a medical provider who is authorized in the state of Utah to recommend cannabis. While telemedicine evaluations are available for repeat visits, your initial evaluation must be completed in person.

When you arrive for your appointment, be sure to provide any documentation confirming your diagnosis (pill bottles, medical records, etc.…). The whole evaluation should take about 15 minutes. If you qualify, your physician will provide you with your written recommendation.

Once you have your certification in hand, proceed to the Utah Department of Health EVS to complete your application. Your application should be processed within about 15 days. Once approved, you can visit any licensed dispensary in the state.

How to Take Medical Marijuana for RA in Utah

You must purchase your cannabis from a state-licensed dispensary. Utah has issued 14 dispensary licenses so far, and several of these facilities are already open for business. Smoking cannabis is not permitted, but you can access your medication in the form of tablets, capsules, tinctures, topicals, oils, patches, and vape-friendly cannabis flower.

Whichever delivery method you prefer, make sure to start with small doses (no more than 5 to 10mg of THC). Inquire about obtaining cannabis strains with a high cannabidiol concentration, as CBD may be instrumental in promoting the anti-inflammatory effects.

While medical marijuana may go a long way toward alleviating the pain of RA, understand that it is not a cure. There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, but you can improve your quality of life with the proper course of treatment. Contact Green Health Docs to qualify for your medical marijuana card in Utah.