Cannabis and Legalization: 5 Reasons to Have a Prescription vs Self-medicating
In June, the Senate passed the bill to legalize recreational marijuana. According to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the law will officially come into effect on Oct. 17, 2018.
Even with recreational cannabis being legalized, there are still numerous benefits to being prescribed medical cannabis through a healthcare practitioner, as opposed to self-medicating with recreationally purchased cannabis.
In this post, we outline 5 reasons why you’ll still want a medical marijuana prescription, and the care and support that comes along with being a medical cannabis patient through a cannabis clinic.
Medical vs. Recreational Marijuana
Medical marijuana is marijuana that is prescribed by a doctor to treat specific health conditions and symptoms. The patient then fills their prescription with a licensed producer (LP). To be sure a retailer’s products meet health and safety standards, LP’s are regulated and inspected by Health Canada.
Recreational cannabis is taken by a person for enjoyment rather than for medical reasons. When cannabis becomes legalized, people will be able to purchase cannabis in storefronts without a prescription. For example, residents of Ontario will have the option of obtaining recreational cannabis, legally, from the Ontario Cannabis Store ( OCS ).
Some people who use cannabis without a prescription are unknowingly “self-medicating.” This means that they are taking a medication—without medical advice—to alleviate a physical or psychological symptoms. For example, using cannabis to “relax” may actually be treating an underlying or undiagnosed anxiety disorder.
With that being said, even with recreational cannabis legalized, getting a medical marijuana prescription has many benefits over self-medicating.
#1 Effectiveness of Medical vs. Recreational Cannabis
When you have a medical cannabis prescription, you get a personalized medical cannabis treatment plan for your specific condition, symptoms, goals and level of comfortability with cannabis. When you use marijuana recreationally, you’re guessing both the correct dose and which strain to buy, especially since retail sales representatives at recreational outlets will be unable to give shoppers medical advice, or advise on the ‘effects’ of the strains sold.
To get a prescription, you can book a consultation with a doctor. Your doctor will assess your health condition and determine your eligibility.
If your doctor determines that cannabis could be an effective treatment, he or she will write you a prescription. Based on your condition, the prescription and advice your doctor gives you will be personalized in a few ways:
- Grams per day— A typical pharmaceutical prescription will instruct you how many pills or how much to take a day. The same is true with a medical marijuana prescription. Your doctor will determine the best dose to start off with for your condition, outlined in the amount of ‘grams’ of dried cannabis ( or the equivalent in oils ).
- THC limit— THC, the psychoactive chemical that gives you the “high,” may be best for some conditions. Others are better treated with the second main compound, CBD. If your doctor determines that too much THC would be inappropriate for your condition, they will indicate a limit that restricts you from taking certain strains very rich in the compound THC. For example, if your doctor determines that CBD is the main cannabinoid that will help your condition, your prescription may prevent you from buying high-THC strains.
- Strains— There are many other factors that make each strain or type of cannabis unique. These include the terpenes present and whether it’s sativa or indica-dominant. For example, a patient with a sleep disorder may find indica strains most effective, while a sativa strain may work better for someone with fatigue. When you consult a doctor, and their team of patient educators, they can also recommend the names of specific strains and proper dosing.
- Method of administration— Many people associate marijuana with smoking, but there are a variety of other ways to consume your medication. You can consult your doctor about which method will work best for you. An Apollo patient educator can also provide administration information, such as how to use a vaporizer, and how much edible oils, or how many capsules would be recommended to take per dose, of a particular product.
Self-medicating tends to be less effective because people often buy any strain of cannabis and take it at a random dose. For this reason, they may accidentally choose a strain that makes their condition worse. Taking too much could also have negative effects and lead to tolerance quickly. Conversely, taking too little could reduce the benefits and be ineffective for one’s conditions.
Some illegal dispensaries require you to fill out a form stating your condition to obtain a membership. Memberships are not the same as prescriptions and dispensaries are still illegal and unregulated.
People may also choose to seek the advice of staff selling marijuana in an illegal storefront. While employees can give general advice, they cannot tell you what’s best for your specific needs. A qualified doctor can assess your condition, give you medical advice and monitor your progress.
#2 Medical Marijuana May Be Covered & there are Discounts for Medical Marijuana
More workplace insurance plans are starting to cover medical marijuana.
As more research on marijuana’s therapeutic benefits becomes available, more providers are recognizing it for some medical purposes, such as multiple sclerosis, HIV-AIDS, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and palliative care. Sun Life Financial became the first major insurance provider to cover cannabis for specific conditions, with many more to follow suit once cannabis is legalized.
Since recreational cannabis is used for enjoyment rather than for medical purposes, you’ll need a prescription to be covered for medical cannabis.
If you’re prescribed medical marijuana and are on government social assistance or are considered low-income, you may qualify for a discount on your medicine.
Many Licensed Producers (LPs) offer “compassionate pricing,” amounting to anywhere from $0.89 to $3 saved per gram of dried cannabis, or 10-30% off the cost of the medicine.
To find out which LP fits your financial needs, an Apollo patient educator will go over all the options and help register you with LP(s) that best suit your healthcare & financial needs.
If you don’t have a prescription for medical cannabis, you aren’t eligible for compassionate pricing on recreational cannabis purchased from retail outlets, regardless of your income bracket.
#3 Medical Marijuana is Tax Deductible
The Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) allows people with prescriptions to file their cannabis costs as a medical expense. To qualify, you’ll also need to save your receipts from a Health Canada approved LP.
To get a prescription, book a consultation here.
#4 Medical Cannabis Strains, Selection & Supply
Some licensed producers, like Spectrum Cannabis, have confirmed their products and supply will be reserved only for medical patients with a prescription, and you will not be able to purchase these products in a recreational store. This means medical patients will have a dedicated and guaranteed supply of specific medical cannabis strains to ensure their needs are met.
#5 Medicate As Needed with a Prescription
When you have a prescription, marijuana is viewed as a medication that should be taken as needed. For this reason, those who use medical marijuana can medicate outside of their home if they need to. With a prescription, you don’t need to worry about being ticketed or fined for medicating in a public area. Patients will still need to abide by provincial smoking laws—such as the Smoke-Free Ontario Act. This restricts people from smoking or vaporizing cannabis in enclosed public places and some outdoor spaces.
You can get a medical marijuana prescription for pain, anxiety, sleep disorders, harm reduction and more. Book a free consultation with one of our doctors.