Medical marijuana: It’s a topic that sparks tremendous debate, and is surrounded by ample misinformation. Since one online medical marijuana store released its “Top ten medical cannabis strains” last month, clarification on the uses, availability, and legality of medical marijuana has become imperative.
"Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle"; "Pineapple Express"; "Weeds." Those are just some of the instances in which marijuana has permeated pop culture, leading to a great deal of confusion and inaccuracy. Since Colorado’s Amendment 64 went into effect in December 2012 and the legality of marijuana is increasingly discussed, the friendly green plant is (finally) starting to shed its notoriety as an alternative boogeyman, and gain more legitimacy for its medicinal benefits.
A little research sheds a lot of light, for example, on the ubiquity of medical marijuana dispensaries many of which have their own PR reps. If nothing else, it's clear that a level of expertise is required when it comes to knowing the good, bad, fact, and myth surrounding medical marijuana.
Alex Milligan is one such expert. He’s the co-founder and CMO of Get Nugg, a website that helps patients find medical marijuana dispensaries that will deliver within their respective neighborhoods. In other words, it's a GrubHub or Seamless for cannabis. When asked to simplify the rumored complexities of medicinal cannabis, he delivered.
Organic Authority: What are your top ten strains of medical marijuana?
AM: A “top ten strains” list can never be completely (or even remotely) objective, since people react to cannabis differently and use it for different purposes. Someone who requires cannabis-indica to treat their insomnia would never have a strain like “Jack Herer” on their top ten list, since Jack Herer is a cannabis-sativa that stimulates the mind and creativity, as opposed to dulling the mind and body like a cannabis-indica would. Conversely, an artist who uses cannabis to gain inspiration would probably have Jack Herer in his or her top three list; it's one of the all-time iconic cannabis strains, and for good reason.
My own (or Nugg's own) top ten cannabis strain list will be largely subjective, but based on our own experiences, in-depth knowledge of the many strains out there, and purchase behavior by our own users, our list might look something like this:
- Jack Herer
- Blue Dream
- Girl Scout Cookies
- OG Kush
- Bubba Kush
- Gorilla Glue #4
- Tahoe OG [which really only gained popularity in the last two years]
- Super Silver Haze
OA: Are these strains available at dispensaries across the nation?
Alex Milligan: Every dispensary carries different products as it relates to cannabis flowers, edibles [and] concentrates, but many of the strains listed can be found at most dispensaries on the west coast. You'd be hard-pressed to find many of these strains in east coast cities, like New York or Miami, since growing conditions for cannabis are different and transporting these strains across state lines is a violation of federal and state laws.
OA: How does one actually legitimately and legally obtain a prescription for medical marijuana?
AM: Just to clear up terminology, one does not acquire a “prescription” for cannabis. Instead, one is issued a “recommendation” for cannabis by a licensed doctor. The need for this clarification is that the federal government still lists cannabis as a Schedule I drug, for which a “prescription” would not be possible. The way one gets a doctor's recommendation for marijuana can differ slightly from state to state, but here are the three primary ways:
1. Ask your primary care physician if cannabis may be beneficial for treating whatever ailment/disease you have. This route is often not-preferred, since cannabis is still shunned by 99% of licensed doctors.
2. Visit a “cannabis clinic.” These are doctors who advocate for the medical use of cannabis and who set up offices dedicated specifically for seeing patients interested in using medical marijuana. Oftentimes, this can be an equally uncomfortable process, as clinics are found scattered throughout metropolitan areas & often found in poor/sketchy neighborhoods. Additionally, these doctors...will [sometimes] award a cannabis recommendation to anyone who walks through their doors and pays their fees.
3. In certain states (including California) where telemedicine is allowed, one can now obtain a recommendation online by video chatting with a licensed doctor. In fact, our company saw how broken the process was for obtaining a recommendation, so we created an online platform where patients can visit with a knowledgeable, friendly, and licensed doctor, 100% online. If approved, patients receive an instant electronic recommendation, which they can use to order [cannabis delivery] online through Nugg, and [receive] a paper recommendation, signed and embossed, in the mail.
OA: So, once a recommendation is obtained, are there legal repercussions? Does it go on your criminal record?
AM: Once you have a doctor's recommendation for cannabis, there are next to zero legal repercussions. The idea that your employer can find out if you're a medical marijuana patient is a very common misconception, and it certainly won't appear on your criminal record. The reality is that the “cannabis clinics” referenced above aren't plugged into any statewide database, much less a federal one, so your information is only held with them and the cannabis dispensaries that you visit.
Now, in California, there is a state-issued medical marijuana program, but one would have to visit their local health department to become included in it. If you opt to do so, your information is made available on a statewide database that can be accessed by employers, although it rarely is. The only benefit [of this option] is that you have added protection if found in an encounter with the police.
The only situation in which your information might become less-than-private is if a cannabis clinic (doctor) comes under legal-fire from the state or feds, in which their database will likely be audited.
OA: If you had to identify the top medical conditions that are most ameliorated by marijuana, what are they, and which strains are best for each condition?
AM: That’s largely subjective, but I can say, with some degree of accuracy, that the top conditions for which marijuana is an effective treatment include insomnia, loss of appetite (as a result of HIV/AIDS or cancer and chemotherapy), chronic pain, seizures, and arthritis. As for which strains are most effective, I can only generalize by saying that strains high in CBD [cannabidiol] are best for treating pain-related symptoms.
OA: Where are medical marijuana dispensaries the most prevalent? California and Colorado are two, but are there any that are a bit more under-the-radar that residents of other states would benefit from knowing about?
AM: California and Colorado are certainly the heavy-hitters when it comes to dispensaries, but other states in which medical and recreational dispensaries are prevalent include Oregon, Washington, New York - very recently - and Washington, D.C. That said, there are many states which allow medical marijuana, and one can certainly find at least one dispensary in each of them.
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Image: Chuck Grimmett