Maryland’s Cannabis Program: Q&A + My Take

Working for a medical cannabis evaluation clinic allows me the opportunity to speak with many people openly and honestly about the benefits of medical cannabis. It is the most rewarding part of my job. I take the responsibility of educating others about medical cannabis very seriously, and I appreciate the opportunity to answer the questions many people have. Here are some of the more common questions, and a few not so common ones, that I thought I’d share.

Q: When will medical cannabis be available to buy?

A: According to the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission’s (MMCC) web site “The MMCC anticipates that medical cannabis will be available to patients from a licensed dispensary in the fall of 2017.”

My Take: The answer to this question has been changed many times by the MMCC. First, we were told medicine would be available in June. Then July. Then Labor Day. There have been many delays throughout the implementation of the program. Everything from delays in issuing licenses, frivolous lawsuits, replacement of board members, and the unnecessary re-writing of the already approved laws have caused the product to take longer to reach the patients who need and want this medicine. The growers, processors, and dispensaries are doing everything they can to get product to market but are still waiting on the MMCC to approve and release the medicine. The good news is we are really close to getting product to market. It’s ready, the industry is ready, but the MMCC is not.

Q: What forms of medical cannabis will be available?

A: Medical cannabis will be available in forms which can be vaporized, which is not smoking, or as extracts, lotions, ointments, and tinctures.

My Take: Many forms of medical cannabis will be available. Many different strains of cannabis will be available too. It’s important to find the best delivery method and strains to suit your specific needs and condition.

Q: Will edibles be available?

A: At this time Maryland will not offer edibles.

My Take: Extracts, flower, and tinctures can be added to food quite easily. It is very easy to make your own edibles at home. You can make cookies, brownies, candies, cannabutter, mac and cheese, anything really, from following a few simple steps and recipes. As a general rule, when eating edibles start slow, very slow. The way the medicine in edibles is absorbed by the body is different than other methods. It can take up to two hours before an edible “kicks in”. Many people eat a little bit of an edible, wait 20 minutes, and don’t feel any effect. They figure the cookie is weak and then eat the entire thing. About an hour later the regret not heeding this advice.

Q: Will health insurers cover the cost of medical cannabis?

A: From our old friend the MMCC website: “Health insurers are not required to cover the cost of medical cannabis. Private health insurers are free under Maryland law to develop policies that will cover medical cannabis.”

My Take: The state encourages private insurance companies to develop policies to cover medical cannabis, but, they don’t force them to cover it. First, understand the language of a “private health insurer” and what that means. Cannabis is still against Federal law so that rules out any government funded healthcare covering it. The state is saying that private companies are free to cover it at their own peril. I do not know of any insurance company that covers medical marijuana in the state of Maryland. The fear of breaking Federal law keeps the insurance companies from offering coverage. Sure, there are other factors in play, such as the profit made on pharmaceuticals, but this is the answer I receive from most of the insurance companies I’ve spoken with.

Q: Can I grow my own cannabis?

A: It is illegal to grow your own cannabis in Maryland, even if you are a certified medial patient.

My Take: Let me repeat in no uncertain terms: it is against the law to grow your own cannabis in Maryland. Perhaps it’s the fact that certain special interest groups do not want you to grow your own medicine for obvious reasons. How it’s illegal to grow something that grows naturally is beyond me.

Q: If I am a legal medical cannabis patient, can I be fired from my job if I fail a drug test for cannabis?

A: The MMCC site clearly states: “Maryland law does not prevent an employer from testing for use of cannabis (for any reason) or taking action against an employee who tests positive for use of cannabis (for any reason). ”

My Take: I don’t even know where to begin with this one. So, the state of Maryland says, if you are a legal medical cannabis patient, your employer can still fire you if you fail a cannabis drug test. If you are on a prescribed opioid and test positive, you are covered by the Doctor’s prescription. Why should medical cannabis be any different? Why is this not discrimination against people using a legally prescribed, safe and natural medicine?  It is discrimination, make no mistake about it. There have been three successful cases that I know of where employees who were using legally prescribed medical cannabis sued their employers after being fired for a positive cannabis drug test. None of these cases were in Maryland, but a trend is beginning. My other thought is that people should be evaluated by the work they do and the way the carry themselves, instead of being judged for choosing a safe, natural medicine over man made pharmaceuticals.

Q: My doctor does not recommend medical cannabis but I think it has benefited my condition. What do I do?

A: The MMCC answers this as well: “Patients often seek a second opinion from another physician. Patients may have a complex medical condition that is not responding well to conventional treatment or find the side effects and risks of a treatment are unacceptable. A patient may establish a bona fide physician patient relationship with any licensed Maryland physician who is in good standing, who is or plans to register with the Medical Cannabis Commission in order to be evaluated to determine if the patient will benefit from the use of medical cannabis. “

My Take: You as a patient, always have the right to a second opinion. There are many reasons why some doctors will not recommend cannabis. Some work for companies that do not allow them to recommend medical cannabis, some health networks do not allow medical cannabis, nor do any Federal pain management programs. If you believe medical cannabis could help improve your quality of life you should seek a qualified Doctor to discuss your condition and treatment options. Our team of qualified medical cannabis Doctors, and professionals at Green Health Docs are here to help.

Q: Where can I legally travel with medical cannabis?

A: The MMCC says: “A legal patient may travel to any location in the state of Maryland (other than federal government property when in possession of medical cannabis). Possession of cannabis is a violation of federal law and Maryland residents should carefully read the current state statutes regarding the use of medical cannabis and be aware that taking cannabis across State lines is a federal offense. Cannabis is also illegal on federal government property. The State of Maryland laws cannot authorize you to travel to other states, jurisdictions or countries with this medicine in your possession.”

My Take: Keep it in Maryland. Do not cross state lines. Another thing for local commuters to know is that there is a stretch of interstate 295 that is actually federal property. Since cannabis is still against federal law, you can not possess it legally on federal property, so you may want to avoid that stretch of highway.

I will be posting more of these questions and answers in the coming weeks. If you have a questions that you’d like answered please submit them to Green Health Docs and you could see it answered here.

Have a green day!