The only way to legally buy cannabis in Michigan today is as a medical marijuana patient. Yes, state voters legalized adult-use cannabis in November 2018, but the first retail stores for people 21 and older aren’t expected to open until sometime in 2020. In the meantime, the only sales are medical.
Registering as a medical marijuana patient in Michigan isn’t hard, but the process can be intimidating. This article will guide you through that process, walking through the steps needed to get a medical marijuana card in Michigan.
Step 1: Do You Qualify?
To register as a medical marijuana patient in Michigan, you’ll need to have been diagnosed with at least one qualifying condition recognized by the state. These include:
- HIV / AIDS
- Hepatitis C
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
- Crohn’s disease
- Agitation of Alzheimer’s disease
- Nail patella
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Spinal cord injury
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Ulcerative colitis
- Parkinson’s disease
- Tourette’s disease
- Chronic pain
- Cerebral palsy
- A chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or its treatment that produces one or more of the following:
- Cachexia or wasting syndrome
- Severe and chronic pain
- Severe nausea
- Seizures (including but not limited to those characteristic of epilepsy)
- Severe and persistent muscle spasms (including but not limited to those characteristic of multiple sclerosis)
Step 2: Get Your Medical Records
To obtain a cannabis card from the state, you’ll first need to obtain documentation that you have a medical condition that qualifies for cannabis treatment in Michigan. For many patients, this can be the most nerve-wracking part of the process.
“You have every right to your own medical records.”
Doctors in Michigan are becoming more accepting of medical marijuana and may be happy to provide you written documentation. But some doctors still stigmatize medical cannabis treatment or, more commonly, are unfamiliar with how to incorporate it into a broader treatment strategy.
If you’d prefer to avoid what could be an uncomfortable conversation, an alternative path involves obtaining your own medical records, then bringing them to a separate medical marijuana clinic and consulting with a doctor there.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 gives every patient the right to view and obtain their medical records. Medical marijuana clinics I spoke with suggested that patients tell their primary doctor or specialist that they want copies of their medical records for personal reasons.
“You have every right to your own medical records,” a representative at Pure West Clinic in Holland told me. Moreover, they added, “you don’t have to tell your primary care doctor why exactly you want them.”
To obtain your records, just let your primary care doctor or specialist know. The office will have you fill out a patient access request and authorization form, which is normally sent through the mail. After you receive the form, fill it out and send it back to your doctor’s office. You should have your records within five to 10 business days.
Step 3: Research Clinics and Make an Appointment
Once to have your medical records, it’s time to make an appointment at a cannabis clinic. If you are unsure of where start, Leafly provides an online database to help you find a qualified doctor.
Because different clinics handle scheduling differently, it’s worth reaching out to a few to ask how the process works at each. Most clinics ask you to make an appointment and bring your medical documentation with you. Other clinics prefer patients send in documentation in advance, before actually scheduling an appointment. This allows in-clinic doctors to review the records and make sure a patient is likely to qualify.
“We’ve had people try to qualify for things, like having reoccurring sinus issues or other conditions, that they can’t qualify under,” said a representative from Michigan Holistic Health in Kalamazoo. “We want to make sure they have documentation for a condition that they can qualify under before they make the trip out here.”
Step 4: Go to Your Appointment. Ask Questions!
This is a step that can still feel uncomfortable to some. But rest assured, going to a medical marijuana clinic feels like going to any other doctor’s office. A medical assistant will take you to an examination room, check your vital signs, and briefly discuss the topic of your visit. Then a doctor will perform a standard exam, review your records, and discuss whether or not cannabis is the right fit for your situation.
If you have any remaining questions, this is a great time to ask them. These could be anything, from questions about how medical cannabis works to which strains or consumption methods might work best for you. It may be worth writing down questions in advance. Remember: The people at these clinics are here to help.
If the doctor agrees that you fit the criteria for a card, a staff member will explain Michigan medical cannabis system’s rules and regulations to while the doctor fills out any last paperwork.
What does it cost? Most clinics require a $200 certification fee. Patients are also responsible for an additional $60 fee to be submitted to the state along with their application. Renewing a card costs $150 every three years.
Step 5: Submit Your Application
With the doctor’s part of your registration out of the way, you can either submit a paper application to the state or fill out an application online. If you choose to sign up online, you’ll be asked to set up an account with the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA), which regulates most cannabis-related matters in the state.
It takes about four to six weeks for the state to process your application and send out a card.
Worth noting: You can fill out the application online prior to your doctor visit, but you won’t be sent a medical cannabis card until the state receives all the required components of your application—doctor’s recommendation included.
It generally takes about four to six weeks for the state to process your application and send out a medical cannabis card. If you don’t receive your card within two months of submitting your application, call the Michigan Medical Marijuana Program at 517-373-0395.
Step 6: Visit a Licensed Dispensary
Once you have your card, it’s time to visit a dispensary. Most Michigan dispensaries, known locally as provisioning centers, carry a variety of cannabis products, including marijuana flower, oils, tinctures, edibles, concentrates, and topicals.
This is another great time to ask questions. Your doctor may have recommended forms of cannabis geared to your specific health needs, and a knowledgeable budtender will be able to point you toward available products that meet to those needs.
Part of a budtender’s job is to know important information about each product the dispensary offers, so they should be able to answer any questions about THC or CBD levels, dominant terpenes, how to consume particular products, and how products are made. Don’t be afraid to ask!