Note: The information provided does not replace legal advice given by an attorney. If you have any concerns about personal liability or legal risks, consult an attorney.
What is Medical Cannabis (Cannabis)?
The medical use of Cannabis goes back to ancient times. The earliest reference dates back as far as 5000 years. The hemp plant (from which cannabis comes) has been cultivated in India and the Far East for thousands of years. Here in the United States, Cannabis was a common ingredient in medications until 1937, when the plant was outlawed by the Cannabis Tax Act, despite the objections of the American Medical Association. Medical Cannabis is used to treat such conditions as multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, cancer, arthritis, cachexia (wasting syndrome), chronic pain, anxiety, insomnia, epilepsy, migraines and health issues related to aging. There are no known severe long-term side effects to the physician-supervised use of Medical Cannabis.
In fact, DEA Administrative Law Judge Francis Young declared in 1988 that Medical Cannabis is “one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man.” As a short-term life-prolonging medicine and a long-term therapy for chronic conditions, Medical Cannabis is a miracle drug that is endorsed by countless doctors and nurses, as well as the patients whose lives are dramatically improved by its use. The cannabis plant has two primary strains or varieties: Sativa and Indica. Many of the strains cultivated today are combinations of both varieties.
These combinations can be predominately Indica, predominately Sativa, or more evenly mixed between the two. Cannabis Indica generally results in heavier body effects and has a calming, sleepy mood. Cannabis Sativa usually results in more pronounced head effects and an energetic “up” feeling.
For more information on Medical Cannabis and choosing the appropriate medicine, review Medical Cannabis 101: Choosing Medicine. Countries around the world, with the exception of the U.S., are leading the way in advancing research and the therapeutic uses of cannabis as a medicine. For more information on medical cannabis research in layman terms, visit Americans for Safe Access. www.safeaccessnow.org
What conditions can cannabis treat?
Patients with a wide variety of conditions may qualify for a medical cannabis evaluation including, but not limited to:
* Migraine headaches
* Chronic pain
* Chronic nausea
* Crohn’s disease
* Hepatitis C
* Multiple Sclerosis
* Muscle spasms
* Sports Injury
* Auto Accident
* Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
* Agitation of Alzheimer’s Disease
Is cannabis legal to recommend?
In 2004, the United States Supreme Court upheld earlier federal court decisions that physicians have a fundamental Constitutional right to recommend Medical Cannabis to their patients.
Within weeks of California voters legalizing Medical Cannabis in 1996, federal officials had threatened to revoke the prescribing privileges of any physicians who recommended Cannabis to their patients for medical use. In response, a group of doctors and patients led by AIDS specialist Dr. Marcus Conant filed suit against the government, contending that such a policy violates the First Amendment. The federal courts agreed at first the district level, then all the way through appeals to the Ninth Circuit and then the Supreme Court.
What doctors may and may not do. In Conant v. Walters, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the federal government could neither punish nor threaten a physician merely for recommending the use of cannabis to a patient. But it remains illegal for a doctor to “aid and abet” a patient in obtaining cannabis. This means a physician may discuss the pros and cons of Medical Cannabis with any patient, and issue a written or oral recommendation to use Cannabis without fear of legal reprisal. This is true regardless of whether the physician anticipates that the patient will, in turn, use this recommendation to obtain Cannabis. What physicians may not do is actually prescribe or dispense cannabis to a patient or tell patients how to use a written recommendation to procure it from a Cannabis club or dispensary. Doctors can tell patients they may be helped by Cannabis. They can put that in writing. They just can’t help patients obtain the Cannabis itself.
Patients are now protected. A December 2003 decision by a federal appeals court in Raich v. Ashcroft established that it is legal under federal law for patients to grow, possess and consume medical cannabis, so long as they don’t pay for it or cross state lines. The ruling applies directly to the nine western states in the Ninth Circuit’s jurisdiction, but the precedent has been set for the nation. The federal prohibition on Cannabis for any use does not apply to patients in these circumstances, and the federal government has been enjoined against arresting or prosecuting them.
Where can I find medical cannabis dispensaries?
This is a question we are asked frequently, however due to State and Federal Law we cannot assist you with this. If you do a search on the internet, you will find the information you need.
What do I need to bring to my visit?
1. Medical Records
Both new and renewing patients are asked to bring in either medical records or documentation from their primary health care provider describing their diagnosis. We are able to offer low evaluation fees to patients by acting as consultants & not as primary health care providers.
Your medical records help us to verify:
1. The condition you are experiencing (your diagnosis);
2. The last time your primary health care provider evaluated you;
3. That your condition is chronic (ongoing);
Documentation/records that are within the past year are preferred. However, it is ultimately up to the doctor to determine if what you brought in is acceptable. If you have a chronic, degenerative or permanent illness/ailment that is never going to be “cured” or resolve itself (AIDS, multiple sclerosis, degenerative disc disease, etc…), the doctor is likely to accept medical records that are older than a year.
If you have not seen a doctor or health care provider for a long time and have no documentation, GreenBridge can still evaluate your need for a recommendation. We may need to refer you to an outside primary care physician or request a follow-up visit.
Another option is to visit a free clinic in your community prior to your visit. The Unite for Site website has an excellent list of free clinics in California.
2. A Valid California Identification Card
Valid California I.D. means a California Driver’s License or DMV issued I.D. card. We do not accept temporary DMV paperwork, school I.D. cards, military I.D.’s, out of state driver’s licenses, passports, medical cannabis cards, work I.D. cards, Social Security cards, lease agreements, etc.
What should I expect at my visit?
When you come to the office, you will be directed to a computer where you will enter your medical history and contact information. We do this to ensure protection – all patient information is kept in a safe harbor data haven off-site. This is the highest level computer security available, twice as secure as that of financial institutions. The doctor will then review your medical history on-line and meet with you for about half an hour to discuss your condition and various treatment options. Should the doctor conclude that medical cannabis is appropriate, you will receive a Recommendation valid for up to one year.
Does a minor qualify for a recommendation?
The younger you are, the more serious your medical condition must be for us to discuss cannabis as an option. We do not give recommendations to anyone under 21 unless they have a very serious medical condition and their parents attend the evaluation.
Does GreenBridge Medical accept insurance?
In order to keep patient costs down, GreenBridge Medical does not currently accept insurance.
Do you employ Physician Assistants?
No, all of our evaluations are conducted by a California-licensed MD.
Will my medical visit and records be private and confidential?
Your privacy is of the utmost importance to us. All patient records and discussions are kept in the strictest confidentiality. In fact, our practice software, M2S2 provides the highest level of security available – twice the security of that of the financial industry!
What happens if the doctor determines I am not qualified to receive a recommendation?
Your fee is for an office visit and evaluation, not a recommendation. Patients that do not qualify pay the full fee just as they would in any other doctor’s office.
What are the laws that allow the use of medicinal cannabis in California?
Proposition 215 Compassionate Use Act of 1996, also known as the Health and Safety Code Section 11362.5 and State Bill 420, passed in 2003.
Can a physician legally recommend cannabis in California?
Yes. Physicians are legally allowed to recommend, but not prescribe, medicinal cannabis to qualified patients, as specified under prop.215 and SB 420. As stated by Chief Judge Walters in Conant vs. Walters, in Opinion, section II second paragraph, a physician may not aid and abet in ” . . .the purchase, cultivation, or possession of cannabis . . .”
If I have a physician’s recommendation is it legal to use/carry/smoke medicinal cannabis?
SB 420 states that: “(e) No person or designated primary caregiver in possession of a valid identification card shall be subject to arrest for possession, transportation, delivery, or cultivation of medical cannabis in an amount established pursuant to this article, unless there is reasonable cause to believe that the information contained in the card is false or falsified, the card has been obtained by means of fraud, or the person is otherwise in violation of the provisions of this article.” However, under federal law possession of medicinal cannabis is a misdemeanor.
Can physicians provide medicinal cannabis for patients?
Absolutely not! Physicians may legally recommend medicinal cannabis for qualifying patients, but they may not prescribe nor provide it.
Can I grow my own cannabis if I have a physician’s recommendation?
SB 420, section 11362.77. states that qualified patients and primary caregivers may ” . . .maintain no more than six mature or 12 immature cannabis plants . . .” However, the physician may legally recommend that certain qualified patients need more. Counties and cities may set guidelines exceeding, but not reducing, the state limits.
If I have a physician’s recommendation, can I sell or distribute cannabis?
Absolutely not! Patients and caregivers may be legally arrested and prosecuted by state officers for selling and/or distributing cannabis.
Is a physician’s recommendation legal throughout California?
Yes. It is legal under Prop. 215 and SB420. However different cities and counties have their own guidelines regarding dispensaries and the maximum amount of medicinal cannabis patients may possess and cultivate. Medicinal cannabis is not legal under federal law.
Is a California physician’s recommendation legal in other states?
No. However, certain other states have their own medicinal cannabis laws.
Is a physician’s recommendation legal federally?
No. Under federal law, possessing medicinal cannabis is a misdemeanor.
Where can I legally ingest medicinal cannabis?
SB 420, section 11362.79. states that patients may not ingest medicinal cannabis:
“(a) In any place where smoking is prohibited by law.
(b) In or within 1,000 feet of the grounds of a school, recreation center, or youth center, unless the medical use occurs within a residence.
(c) On a school bus.
(d) While in a motor vehicle that is being operated.
(e) While operating a boat.”
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