Medical Marijuana: Obtaining a Patient Card in Pennsylvania

If you’ve been following along with my stories over the last week or so, you’ll know that I’ve just recently obtained my Medical Marijuana Patient Card and have had some mixed feelings about it. I thought I’d share a bit about the process I went through and spark some conversation about this “budding” industry, thoughts around the “pot stigma”, and some thoughts and ideas for what the future holds.

Like so many of us, I used to recreationally smoke pot until about three years ago when my body decided that it wasn’t enjoyable for me anymore. My anxiety would ramp up almost immediately, different than that “high paranoia”, it would hit me both physically and mentally, where my thoughts would instantly become dark and negative, my mind would race, my chest would tighten, and I would fall into a complete panic. I hated it. Smoking weed was in no way shape or form fun, relaxing, chill, or “medicinal” in any way.

I have always known there were different kinds of weed and that like snowflakes, no bud was really the same, but hadn’t taken the time to really research and dig deeper into the actual constituents of Marijuana. When you buy it illegally, you typically have absolutely no clue what strain you’re getting, what percentage of which cannabinoids contribute to it’s weight, and exactly what terpenes (the fragrant “essential oils” of the flowers) are included. You just buy it, and smoke it, and see what happens. Sometimes the high would be physical, often times more mental, sometimes both. Sometimes smoking would make me tired, and other times I’d be inspired to paint, play music, or my activity to do with a ganja buzz - grocery shop.

But the inconsistency of not knowing what my reaction was going to be was irritating and started to really affect me in a negative way. So, after over a decade of smoking pot, I completely stopped and never looked back. I did miss it though. Even though I enjoy a cocktail or ice cold beer from time to time, I’m not much of a drinker and neither is Tyler, but sometimes to take the edge off, I just want to smoke. When it’s right, it’s really right, and it’s awesome. But I was missing what felt right, and because I had no way of knowing what was right for me, I didn’t want to chance it because the negative effects were far too detrimental for me. I figured I’d smoke again one day, but wasn’t sure when and have been declining every offer I’ve received, wanting nothing to do with it, up until now.

What sparked my newly-found interest in Marijuana?

Well, for starters, Tyler just got a new job as the Facilities Manager for Curaleaf, a growing Medical Marijuana cultivation company, which has naturally inspired us to learn more about the medicinal and scientific approach behind the use of Marijuana.

I have hardly scratched the surface of knowledge, but have begun to research the immensely beneficial constituents of this incredible plant, including THC and CBD, but also CBN, CBDL, and more… The THC is what causes the psychoactive effects, or the high, but you don’t have to get high from smoking Marijuana. Many different strains are bred to hold a very minimal amount of THC where you can receive benefits from consuming it without the high. CBD, for example, is anti-inflammatory, a cancer cell fighter, used for pain relief, and more. CBD also combats the effects of THC, so your high is less intense and more balanced with a 1:1 ratio of THC to CBD. More on all of this at a later date…

Each state has different laws about Marijuana. Here in Pennsylvania, it has been made legal to use Marijuana medicinally. I realized that I could medicate again in a much more controlled fashion, with assistance from a doctor and budtenders at local dispensaries who would help me find what was best for me, based on the results I was looking for with various conditions I have.

If you’ve followed me for a while, you know that like so many people, I’ve struggled with much anxiety (and some depression) for years… ever since I was a freshman in high school. Anxiety has just been listed as an acceptable condition to quality for a MM card in PA. I also had an L5S1 disc herniation about 15 years ago that still acts up from time to time. My back has always given me troubles and the pain is something I’m used to, but now, I can experience relief. Yoga has helped but every year for a few weeks or so, I’ll lift something or over-extend myself and have to lay low. Every month, my mom used to have to pick me up from school because of my severe menstrual cramps. Acupuncture has helped my cycle tremendously, but I’d still rather use CBD oil or flower than Midol. So I’m just excited to be able to take care of myself using a method I really believe in, that’s working wonders for my body holistically - mentally, physically, and yes, even spiritually.

I’m also excited that I can also benefit from it without the THC, starting slow from the get-go and managing the percentage of THC I’ll be consuming. It’s common to think weed always gets you high but that’s not entirely true! I can purchase straight CBD tinctures, vape cartridges, and flower, or with a mild 5-10% THC so I don’t feel as much of the psychoactive effects until I’m comfortable with what works for me. That’s the thing - everyone responds to Marijuana differently. There isn’t one particular strain that works for any specific condition… different things work for different people. It’s all about trying a variety, even keeping a journal, and discovering the strains and terpenes you love most.

How does one acquire a Medical Marijuana Patient License in PA?

After deciding I was ready to apply for my card, I got online to find a doctor that would help me out. I don’t have a GP, so I needed to find a Marijuana-specific doctor who I knew would give me the help I was looking for.

A Bing search brought me to MarijuanaDoctors.com, where I searched for my state, and then looked to find a practitioner in my area. This website is really helpful because it lists all of the states where Medical Marijuana is legal, the qualifying conditions for each state, helpful doctors, dispensaries, and more.

I chose the first option for Green Care Medical and scheduled my appointment. You’re also supposed to register for your card through the state here, prior to your appointment to see the doctor. The fee is about $200.

What was your Doctor’s Appointment like?

If you watched my insta-story, you know that I wasn’t too impressed with my experience with the Doctor’s office. Nothing I experienced was really a “problem” per se, I just didn’t feel like certain aspects of my experience were all too professional. The facility was a pop-up “office” in the same building as a local dispensary, with a folding table, a laptop, a couple of chairs, and a plastic succulent on the table. It was hard to find and not marked well, but luckily someone who came in to purchase from the dispensary was able to show me where to go.

The woman who registered me wasn’t necessarily the friendliest, and somewhat made me feel like an inconvenience to her day. I was nice to her, but some of the things she said to me made me wish I’d gone through another Doctor, to be honest.

When I was escorted to the Doctor’s room, he was sitting at another fold-up table with a laptop and more plastic succulents, lol. He was really nice, dressed in a suit, and was really happy and excited to talk with me. He said he had a background in pediatric neuroscience and had a really warm personality. He asked me a few questions about the unwanted pain/symptoms I was having, and proceeded to sign me off to receive my card.

I thanked him and shook his hand, then walked back to see Mrs. Customer Service to help me register to actually have my card sent. Apparently it’s a separate process than the initial registration. To receive your card, it’s another $50 fee. Every year hereafter, I’ll be responsible for a $150 renewal fee.

I’m pretty sure anyone who goes through this process is absolutely fine with paying these fees, given the fact that we are now able to purchase Marijuana in a safe and legal, medicinal, responsible fashion.

I couldn’t have asked for an easier process. It took about 45 minutes and in about 2 days, my card was in my mailbox.

However, to be honest, I expected to have a bit of a different experience with the doctor, where he’d explain things to me as far as my options, what would work for my back pain, my anxiety, etc. especially since this was all new for me. Apparently that’s what the budtenders at the dispensaries are there for though, so I look forward to that. I expected a normal “doctor’s office” environment with white walls, a sterile environment, and professionalism that seemed to be lacking a bit in my experience. This felt sort of silly, like somehow it wasn’t legit or something, even though I knew it was. But this is why we shouldn’t have expectations of life in general… they’re often not met and who are we to expect something of anything anyway? :)

Looking back, I’m grateful for it because it gave me the ability to receive my card, as I was making a decision to better my health in a progressive manor. But their process made it feel cheap to me and I wanted it to feel more enriched and special, because that’s how I feel about the powers of Marijuana. But that’s the experience I’ll look forward to having at the dispensary tomorrow, where I’ll be able to get personal, ask questions, and have a customized product-buying experience.

I do recommend going this route unless you think your General Practitioner would write you a script for Medical Marijuana, and maybe not all MJ doctors offices are like the one I experienced. Not that they were bad, just… kinda meh.

What was the dispensary like?

I was so excited for my first trip to the dispensary, which we have down the street from us, and headed there after a few morning errands today. All of the expectations I’d had of the MJ Doctor were met at the dispensary and I wasn’t even able to see a single bud. And here’s why… my card wasn’t active yet, not until tomorrow. I was disappointed but it’s no biggie, I’ll just go tomorrow! One more day to research what I want to try out first.

But where my expectations lacked at the doctor, they were fully met at the dispensary. Upon entry, I walked in to a beautifully white, clean, sterile space that resembles an actual Doctor’s office or even like a scientific lab of sorts. I loved it and was so happy it had that vibe rather than like a hookah lounge or head shop or something. Not all pot-smokers are stoners! The environment held and reflected the respect, medicinal and therapeutic standpoint, professionalism, and customer service that the Doctor’s office was lacking. This is the true Doctor’s office, the other guys were just the key to entry. So I was glad to see that these dispensaries are high-end facilities that represent the true intentions of the industry, and display their business in a way that makes me proud to be a part of supporting it. Not to mention the gentlemen behind the counter were so nice and gracious to me, as it was my first time and I wasn’t sure what to do. So they kindly turned me away and said they’d see me tomorrow! They also gave me their website information where I could take a look at the “menu” online, and get an idea of what I might want to purchase before tomorrow. I also get a 20% "first-timer” discount, so that’s exciting!

In closing…

For whatever reason, the federal government is against it for now, but the states are coming around and that is worth celebrating in a big way! One day, it’ll be just as easy to buy bud as it is to buy Bud Light. There won’t be as much of a stigma around it, and people will see what I saw at the dispensary today - a classy, professional, smart, science-based, sensible, holistic, healthy perspective on Marijuana.

It’s not about how you get your card, it’s about getting your card. Some states and doctor’s offices are probably more particular about certain details. I’m grateful that my process was simple and easy, and took less than a week to acquire my card! I’m excited to go back tomorrow and shop for the first time, and continue exploring all of this in a safe way.

I want to hear your stories! Are you interested in getting your card? What are your views on Medical Marijuana? Any favorite strains or terpenes? What cannabanoids do you prefer?? Tell me all the things!