Photo by Martijn Baudoin
By Lisa Profera MD
Patients often ask me, “Why should I get a medical marijuana card if marijuana use is legal in Michigan?” Recreational or adult use of cannabis has been legal in the state of Michigan since December 1st, 2019. The medical use of marijuana was approved by our state ten years prior to that in November of 2008.
Even though marijuana is accessible to everyone now, there are still some very compelling reasons to register as a patient and get your medical marijuana card, provided you have a qualifying medical condition.
The current list of medical conditions accepted by the state are: agitation of Alzheimer’s, AIDS, ALS, arthritis, autism, cachexia or wasting syndrome, cancer, cerebral palsy, chronic pain, colitis, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, glaucoma, hepatitis C, HIV, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, muscle spasms (persistent), nail patella syndrome, nausea (severe), OCD, Parkinson’s, PTSD, rheumatoid arthritis, seizures, spinal cord injury, Tourette’s, and ulcerative colitis. I’ve been doing medical marijuana consultations for over four years, and I’ve noticed that the most common disease processes that patients struggle with are those that cause chronic pain. Pain and inflammation are the underlying mechanisms in many chronic diseases, and in light of the opioid crisis, many patients are looking for safer alternatives. Also, as a board-certified pediatrician, I feel comfortable helping children as well.
Here are my top five reasons why you should consider getting a Michigan medical marijuana card if you qualify:
IT WILL SAVE YOU MONEY
If you have a qualifying medical condition, having a medical marijuana card can save you a large amount of money over time. The cost of obtaining your card through the state of Michigan is $40 (recently reduced from $60) and it’s good for two years. The renewal fee is also $40 right now. Then there’s a required physician certification, which involves a visit to a doctor who verifies your qualifying condition and submits the required application form to the state. The fee for this service is variable (from $70-150) depending on the quality of advice/service offered.
So, where are the savings? The savings become evident when you start purchasing products. The state of Michigan charges all recreational or adult-use customers an additional 10% excise tax on top of the 6% sales tax — that’s 16% in taxes. Medical patients don’t have to pay the extra 10% tax. When you compare the actual prices of medical vs. recreational products, you’ll also see that recreational products are more expensive overall (20-30% higher than medical). Add this to the 10% tax, and you can see that a medical patient saves about 30-40% on every purchase. This adds up to a significant amount of money over the course of two years!
MEDICAL PRODUCTS ARE SAFER AND CLEANER
As a physician, I advocate for my patients, and I certainly don’t want to recommend anything that may cause harm. We’re fortunate that Michigan has some of the most stringent testing and safety requirements in the nation when it comes to marijuana products. Cannabis product analysis is crucial to the development of safer products for consumers. It also serves to inform the consumer about potency and types of cannabinoids present, in addition to assuring the absence of potentially harmful contaminants such as heavy metals, solvents, pesticides, microbes, and microbial toxins.
The State of Michigan employs a “seed-to-sale” tracking system called METRC. Plants and plant products are tagged, cross-referenced, and labelled with bar codes. The State of Michigan Marijuana Regulatory Agency prides itself on being a “national model for a regulatory program that stimulates business growth while preserving safe consumer access to marijuana,” according to the LARA page on Michigan.gov.
The important thing to know about this is that the testing requirements for medical vs. recreational products are different. For example, the threshold for microbial load is higher for medical-grade products. Recreational products are legally allowed to have about ten times the microbial load that medical products can have. This translates to products that are about ten times cleaner on the medical side. People who are concerned about their health value these stricter standards. Just keep in mind that 80% of ingredients used in US drugs are from China and India. The US consumer has no access to any data related to the purity or testing of prescription medications; it’s a leap of faith.
At Apothecare Ann Arbor, we take the commitment to purity a step further. Our in-house flower is the only organically certified marijuana in the state of Michigan. This applies to both medical and recreational flower. Most dispensaries don’t adhere to these standards; we’re raising the bar, so to speak.
HAVING A CARD LENDS CREDIBILITY AND LEGITIMACY
Many of my patients are seeking natural solutions to their chronic health conditions. They’re not looking to get “high” per se; they’re just looking for non-pharmaceutical and safer alternatives to their physical/emotional health issues. To put it bluntly, cannabis can’t kill you like opioids can (see my series of CBD articles published in BRICK, fall 2019 ). Cannabis also doesn’t have any significant or harmful side effects for most.
In my experience with helping people navigate cannabis medicine, I’ve been humbled by the number of people who’ve been able to wean off of their pain meds or psych meds over the last few years. Some have even been able to treat their pain with cannabis to the point of recovery; some have experienced an end to their troubling symptoms. This is especially gratifying to me as a traditionally-trained physician. In our medical culture, it’s accepted as “normal” to have more medical problems and have to take more prescription medications as we age. The fact that my medical marijuana patients are getting relief and taking less prescription and over-the-counter medications over time is wonderful and unprecedented.
Having a medical marijuana card may add to the credibility/legitimacy of use for patients who are truly using cannabis for medical benefits. People are judged by their doctors, employers, and law enforcement for use of cannabis. By virtue of having a legitimate medical reason for use of marijuana, and being able to prove it, you can put some of that judgement to rest.
YOU’LL HAVE MORE CHOICES
There are various rules and regulations limiting the type and potency of products. Medical patients have greater access to a variety of products and the actual amount of “medicinal” benefit of products offered in the market. For example, cancer patients seeking a high-potency RSO (Rick Simpson Oil) product can obtain a higher potency product with a medical marijuana card (at a lesser price). The maximum threshold for edibles in the recreational market is lower than that for medical. People that really need medical marijuana for amelioration of approved diseases/conditions are not as limited.
YOU’LL HAVE MORE ACCESS
There are many dispensaries in Michigan that only accept medical patients; the state limits the number of recreational dispensaries. There are also many states in the nation that don’t have adult or recreational use laws. However, many states honor out-of-state medical cards. In a state such as Nevada, a medical patient can “skip the line” and have faster access to products. Other states are medical-only. This is restricting to those who may be travelling to or visiting other states for longer periods of time. Access to medication in the form of medical-grade marijuana may be limited.
If you have a qualifying medical condition, the case for obtaining your medical marijuana card is a no-brainer. I’m committed to helping people with natural solutions for better health and wellness. Medical marijuana clearly has benefits for those who are looking for safer, cleaner, and less expensive alternatives.
Lisa Profera MD
Owner and Founder of PROJUVU MD
Aesthetics and Lifestyle Medicine in Ann Arbor, MI
Medical Director, Facial Innovations Medi-spa, Ann Arbor
Medical Director, Northville Beauty Spa
Certified Medical Marijuana Doctor
Certified doTERRA Essential Oils Expert
BEMER Independent Distributor
CrossFit® Level 1 Trainer
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Please note that the information in this article has been designed to help educate the reader regarding the subject matter covered. This information is provided with the understanding that the author and any other entity referenced here are not liable for the misconception or misuse of the information provided. It is not provided to diagnose, prescribe, or treat any disease, illness, or injured condition of the body. The provider of this information shall have neither liability nor responsibility to any person or entity concerning any loss, damage, or injury caused or alleged to be caused directly or indirectly by this information. The information presented is in no way intended as a substitute for medical counseling or care. Anyone suffering from any disease, illness, or injury should consult a qualified healthcare professional. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.