04 Jun A Guide to Medical Marijuana for Seniors in Pennsylvania
Everything Older Adults Should Know About Legal Marijuana in Pennsylvania
Across America, the use of marijuana for both medicinal and recreational purposes is on the rise. Even though there is a federal ban on marijuana, many states are allowing its use, including Pennsylvania.
On April 17, 2016, Governor Tom Wolf signed into law SB 3. The law is Pennsylvania’s compassionate medical cannabis legislation. This law is what brought medical marijuana into the fold in Pennsylvania, authorizing its legality for qualified medical purposes. On February 15, 2018, medical marijuana became available for patients at dispensaries around the state.
Seniors are a segment of the population increasingly turning to medical marijuana as well as cannabinoid oil (CBD). The following guide answers questions about medical marijuana in Pennsylvania and outlines how seniors in Pennsylvania can get access to a medical marijuana card and begin a medical marijuana treatment regimen.
What is medical marijuana?
Medical marijuana involves the use of the marijuana plant, or the chemicals contained inside of it, to treat diseases or conditions. The product is no different from recreational marijuana. However, it’s taken expressly for medical purposes.
Marijuana plants contain over 100 different chemicals known as cannabinoids. Each one has a different effect on the body. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are the principal chemicals that are used in medicine. The “high” people get from smoking or ingesting marijuana is THC.
How is medical marijuana taken?
Medical marijuana can be:
- Smoked; however, in the state of Pennsylvania, smoking marijuana is illegal and is not an option for medical marijuana through retail stores.
- Inhaled through a vaporizer device that turns it into a mist
- Eaten, like in a brownie or through a lollipop
- Applied directly to your skin in an oil, lotion, cream, or spray
- Dropped in liquid form under your tongue
Each method of action works differently inside the body. Smoking or vaporizing cannabis allows you to feel the effects of marijuana very rapidly. Alternatively, if you eat it, it takes much longer to be in effect. It could take over an hour to experience the effects of edible products. However, the effect may also last much longer.
How do I qualify?
There are currently 24 qualifying conditions defined in Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Act.
Medical marijuana can be a powerful alternative to other forms of treatment in some conditions. Pennsylvania has outlined a list of conditions that medical marijuana can legally be used for under its state program. The following list of the 24 qualifying conditions for the state of Pennsylvania. Of note, these conditions are subject to change. In fact, the number of qualifying conditions has only increased since the bill was initially passed.
- Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
- Anxiety disorders
- Crohn’s Disease
- Dyskinetic Disorders
- Damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity
- HIV / AIDS
- Huntington’s Disease
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Intractable Seizures
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Neurodegenerative Disorders
- Opioid Use Disorder
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
- Severe chronic or intractable pain of neuropathic origin or severe chronic or intractable pain in which conventional therapeutic intervention and opiate therapy is contraindicated or ineffective
- Sickle Cell Anemia
- Terminal Illness
- Tourette syndrome
- Ulcerative Colitis
The great thing about medical marijuana is it can help with many conditions that disproportionately impact seniors and older adults, including those seen here like chronic pain, terminal illness, and neurodegenerative diseases.
How do I get a medical marijuana license/card?
Register with the state
If you determine that you have a qualifying condition, then the next step will be to register here for a profile for the Pennsylvania medical marijuana program, part of the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Be sure that you have a Pennsylvania driver’s license or state identification before beginning.
See an approved medical marijuana prescribing doctor
Next, you can see a doctor licensed to prescribe marijuana in Pennsylvania. Click here for a list of doctors near you in Pennsylvania. During your visit, be sure to bring a list of medical records or other information such as active medications that demonstrate and prove your diagnosis. Your doctor can give you more detailed information on what they require.
Pay your registration fee
Finally, patients will pay a registration fee totaling $50 per year. After you have been certified by an approved physician, you will get an email informing you that you can pay for and finalize your medical marijuana ID card.
Where can I find a doctor?
As we previously shared, marijuanadoctors.com has a useful and comprehensive doctor search tool. Also, the state of Pennsylvania maintains a list of approved doctors as well, broken down by county and regularly updated (at the time of writing, updated within 7 days).
How much does it cost?
The cost of registration is $50. In addition, any costs associated with your medical marijuana prescriber and visit(s) will be the responsibility of the patient. The medical marijuana product is another cost that the patient will need to take into account. Medical marijuana has generally been expensive, and much more expensive than costs “on the street.”
According to a recent Medical Marijuana advisory board meeting in Pennsylvania, over 50 percent of respondents in a survey reported spending over $200 per month on medical marijuana. However, the costs of medical marijuana have started to trend down, particularly from when medical marijuana was first introduced in Pennsylvania. As Pennsylvania becomes a more established market, like California or Colorado, you can probably expect that prices will continue to fall.
Will insurance cover it?
Unfortunately, insurance will not cover medical marijuana, including the visit to your medical marijuana prescriber, the cost of the marijuana, or the registration fee. However, your insurance should continue to pay for your regular doctor’s visit as it relates to your underlying condition, as applicable.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected medical marijuana?
Medical marijuana dispensaries are considered essential services and continue to remain open in Pennsylvania. Also, many medical marijuana doctors can facilitate online visits towards getting approved for medical marijuana.
Where can I find a dispensary?
The state maintains an updated list of dispensaries that are approved and registered in Pennsylvania. The Department of Health also has a map on its page that displays the location of dispensaries throughout the state.
Being a medical marijuana caregiver
In Pennsylvania, there is an option to become a caregiver for patients unable to obtain medical marijuana on their own. This can be helpful for loved ones of seniors in need that need assistance with retrieving their medical marijuana.
Who can be a caregiver?
A caregiver can be a parent, child, family member or a friend. The selected caregiver just needs to be at least 21 years old. They must be authorized by the department of health, though there are exceptions. As part of the approval process, they must pass a criminal background check per state procedure. In some cases, the department of health may authorize an outside caregiver if no legal guardian or parent is available.
Other notes about caregivers
When a patient submits their application for their medical marijuana card, they may designate up to two caregivers. A caregiver can be appointed to provide services to up to five patients. Finally, there is a $50 processing fee for caregiver applications, just like the regular medical marijuana application.
As you consider whether medical marijuana is an appropriate choice for your health care, look at alternative options like CBD as well. Always be sure to consult with your primary care doctor before starting any regimen. If you are smart about medical marijuana and use it appropriately, it could be a good option for helping to meet your pressing health conditions.
For seniors with chronic medical conditions, it can be difficult to complete activities of daily living. Many seniors can benefit from an at-home caregiver, and Chosen Family Home Care provides compassionate and supportive caregivers to help you maintain your quality of life and dignity as you age in place. Chosen Family may also be able to assist by being a medical marijuana caregiver for those in need.