For any patient interested in getting a medical cannabis card and making purchases at the dispensary, obtaining your physician recommendation is an important first step. Whether you have past experience treating your symptoms with cannabis or you’re considering this option for the first time, the doctor approval process is a step you’ll need to complete as part of your patient application. Fortunately, there are many physicians in Illinois actively approving patients for medical cannabis and the process is less challenging than you may think. We hope the following guide will answer your questions and get you started on the path to becoming a medical cannabis cardholder.
What is a Medical Cannabis Recommendation?
Before approaching your doctor, it’s important to understand what it is you’ll be requesting from them. Since medical cannabis is not a prescription drug, doctors cannot “prescribe” it to patients in a traditional sense as they would for common pharmaceutical medications. Instead, doctors may simply “recommend” medical cannabis to patients in cases where they believe its use could be beneficial. Legally, such recommendations are considered constitutionally protected free speech that occurs as part of the private relationship between doctor and patient.
Finding a Doctor
The decision of who to approach for assistance obtaining your recommendation will depend on your individual healthcare situation. If you have a primary care physician who is experienced with your medical history and current treatments, that’s a good place to start. Your primary care physician should be able to provide guidance specific to your health needs and may be willing to issue a recommendation for you.
Many patients, however, either do not have a primary care physician or receive primary care from a provider that is unable or unwilling to issue medical cannabis recommendations. In this case, the best approach is to visit a specialist who is experienced with medical cannabis treatment. There are many providers in Illinois who are approving patients to participate in the medical cannabis program. Feel free to contact us for assistance in finding the right option for you.
Discussing Medical Cannabis Treatment
Once you’ve made a decision on which provider to approach about obtaining your recommendation, you’ll want to think about how to effectively communicate your interest in medical cannabis treatment. Here are a few tips for how to have the conversation:
- Be Honest: It’s important to speak frankly about your health situation and explain why you feel this treatment option makes sense for you. If you’ve had previous positive experiences using cannabis to treat your symptoms, it’s appropriate to share this information.
- Be Thorough: If you’re already undergoing treatment for your condition, it’s helpful to explain what’s worked for you and what has not. By assessing your treatment needs, progress, and long-term goals, they’ll be better able to understand why this additional therapy interests you and how it may be able to help.
- Be Well-informed: Some providers are more knowledgeable about medical cannabis treatment than others, so it’s always a good idea to show that you’ve done your research. Demonstrating that you’ve studied the science on how cannabis impacts your condition will show that you’re taking the issue seriously and may even persuade a reluctant provider to give this option a second look. It’s also helpful to understand the basics of medical cannabis in Illinois in case your doctor isn’t familiar with the program.
Above all, keep in mind that you’re one of many patients exploring medical cannabis treatment and there’s nothing unusual about raising this topic with your provider. Illinois has thousands of approved medical cannabis patients and more cards are issued every day. Our state’s program is well-regulated and responsibly managed to maintain a continuing focus on protecting the health and wellbeing of all participants.
If your doctor agrees to give you a medical cannabis recommendation, they will need to complete and submit a Physician Certification Form on your behalf to the Medical Cannabis Program. Your doctor may access the form by clicking here. If you are a veteran receiving care at the VA, you will need medical records instead of a doctor recommendation. Instructions for veterans are available here. Patients under the age of 18 will require an additional certification from a second doctor. Once your doctor has completed your patient certification, the next step is submitting your patient application. You can complete the application form by clicking here and creating an account. Be sure to fill out all sections of the form, include the required documents, and make payment of your application fee.