Talking to Your Partner about Cannabis

Medically reviewed by Katherine Golden, RN
Written by Denise Rustning

Cannabis has gone mainstream. Medical marijuana is legal in over half the states. Also, recreational use is legal in 11 states as well as in the District of Columbia and all of Canada.

Cannabidiol (CBD) hemp products containing less than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are legal at the federal level, and widely available online and in retail outlets in almost all states. Compliant CBD hemp products should not get you high (cause impairment or intoxication), but offer many health benefits.

As legalization has spread, so has acceptance. According to a November 2019 Pew Research poll,  67% of Americans say marijuana should be federally legalized. This support exists across all age groups except for the Silent Generation, made up of people over the age of 75.

The shifting public attitudes might not be reflected in your own home, though.

How do you talk to your significant other if you’re curious to try cannabis but don’t know what they’ll think? This can be especially tricky when your partner has negative experiences, fear or preconceptions about cannabis.

Know Why You Want to Use Cannabis

Before you broach the topic with your partner, take stock of why you want to try cannabis. Are you “canna-curious” and interested in seeing what options exist in the legal marketplace? For example, some people are turning to THC-infused drinks and other products as alternatives to wine or beer.

Many people also seek out cannabis based on growing research about the plant’s health benefits.

Remember that cannabis is not a cure-all or magic pill. However, it can serve as a powerful tool.

Anticipate your Partner’s Concerns

Many of us had less-than-ideal experiences with marijuana in the past, when it was illegal everywhere. Product quality was iffy at best, and you never quite knew what was in the flower (buds) you were smoking. If you got caught, you faced legal charges, fines and even jail time, along with a criminal record.

Keep this recent history in mind when you bring up cannabis to your partner. Even someone with past cannabis experience may respond with skepticism at first, given the nature of their previous experiences.

You can address these concerns by talking about how state regulations provide more oversight and consistency in products sold at legal dispensaries.

While CBD products sold in retail outlets and online are not subject to this same level of oversight, most high-quality manufacturers provide Certificates of Analysis (COAs) with test results for their products to see exactly what makes up that particular product. 

Stigma: The Elephant in the Room… On the Couch Eating Chips

Cannabis still suffers from stereotypes, despite the fact that more athletes, businesspeople, and other high achievers are openly embracing the plant.

When you tell your partner you want to try cannabis, they may immediately picture you glued to the sofa with a bag of Doritos. Those old stereotypes are tough to shake!

Dr. Dave Gordon, founder of 4Pillars Health & Wellness, addressed some of these stereotypes in his recent interview with Leaf411.

“A lot of the cannabis propaganda that people have heard over time is just wrong,” he says. “The perfect example is when someone asks, ‘Is cannabis going to cause me to lose my brain cells?’ … Actually, the science shows that cannabis is probably going to protect your brain.”

You can read more from Dr. Dave on common misconceptions and what the research says about cannabis here.

Putting Cannabis in Context of Lifestyle Changes

When talking with your partner, put your interest in cannabis in context with other areas of your life, explaining how it fits with other goals and priorities. For example, if your goal is to improve your sleep, share other lifestyle changes you’ll be trying along with cannabis, like limiting screen time before bed.

Also, you can point out that while we try many new things in our lives, very few (if any) become all-encompassing. For example, when you took up running, it didn’t mean you were suddenly skipping work to spend all day out on the trails. Your experience with cannabis will likely follow a similar path, becoming a balanced activity, not a problematic one. 

Religion and Cannabis

Cannabis prohibition in the United States has always carried a strong moral undercurrent, using language such as “devil’s lettuce,” and stereotyping cannabis users as lazy stoners.

Most of today’s religions are against recreational use. Medical marijuana, on the other hand, is where many religions (but not all!) have shown more openness.

If your partner’s concerns are based on religion, try to understand their perspective. They may be concerned that you are not treating your body with respect, or that your use will be excessive and sinful.

If you’re only interested in using cannabis for recreational purposes, you’ll have a tough argument to make.

However, if you’re seeking cannabis for health purposes, consider framing your perspective to address your partner’s concerns. For example, talk about how you are seeking alternatives to prescription painkillers that have harmful side effects.

Also, you can point out that your goal is to heal, not to get high, and what that means for you.

For example, you might be starting with CBD hemp products that are federally legal and have no intoxicating effects. If you’re using products with THC, you might talk about how you plan to start low and go slow with dosing, an approach recommended by Leaf411 nurses, Dr. Dave and other cannabis health practitioners. A big misconception is that you need to feel high (intoxicated) to reap the medicinal benefits. This is not the case for most people using THC.

Talking About Substance Abuse Concerns

Substance abuse is a complex issue. You only need to look as far as a set of siblings, where one sibling becomes an alcoholic while the other does not, to see it’s not just a matter of genetics or upbringing. 

Your partner may understandably be concerned if they’ve had friends or family members who abused marijuana. Anything can have an abuse potential, from food to alcohol to cannabis, so explaining your intention is key.

It doesn’t help, either, that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lists marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug along with heroin, despite significant evidence that it is not nearly as harmful and has much lower potential for addiction. Part of the Schedule 1 designation is based on the FDA’s position that marijuana has no medical value.

This designation, ironically enough, limits the abilities of academic and medical professionals to conduct research on cannabis’s potential health benefits.

In other words, the FDA requires clinical research to support moving a drug down to a lower level on the schedule; however, due to FDA restrictions, it’s extremely difficult for researchers to conduct the very studies that the FDA requires.

Can someone become dependent on cannabis? According to Dr. Robert Navarra, a psychologist at the Gottman Institute, substance use and addiction fall on a spectrum. About 9% of people who use cannabis will develop cannabis use disorder which means they are dependent on—but not addicted to—cannabis. To put that in perspective, researchers estimate that approximately 30% of Americans have alcohol use disorders.

Respond to your partner’s concerns by talking about what your overall goals are in using cannabis, as well as how this plant-based tool fits in with other strategies you’re trying. If you’re embracing the start low and go slow approach, you can share that knowledge with your partner as well. Your goal is to find the right amount for your purposes.

CBD and Marijuana Health Concerns

In January 2020, new research came out from the American College of Cardiology showing that cannabis may interact with certain cardiac medications.

If your partner saw that study in the news, or other past news about the FDA questioning the safety of CBD, they might have hesitations, especially if you regularly take prescription medications.

We agree that it’s imperative to check with a medical professional before adding any new medicine to your ongoing regimen. You can check out our recent post on the subject here.

Our Leaf411 registered nurses are also available to talk to you or your partner about potential medication interactions with cannabis.

Legal Cannabis and the Workplace

First, we’ll say that if you live in a state without legal recreational or medical marijuana, then we strongly encourage you to limit yourself to CBD hemp products which are federally legal. CBD hemp products may provide many cannabis plant benefits, minus the intoxicating effects of THC.

CBD hemp is also legal at the state level nearly everywhere. (Idaho, Nebraska and South Dakota are the exception.)

Even in a fully-legal state with recreational and medical marijuana, your partner may have legal concerns.

For example, a med card or state legalization doesn’t serve as a defense against positive drug test results in the workplace.

If you work in a job that requires drug testing, then we recommend looking for CBD products that clearly state “No THC” on their label. Verify the product quality and contents, as well, by reviewing the manufacturer’s COA listing the lab test results. Be sure to share this information with your partner as well, so they can understand how you’re taking steps to use safe products.

Is your partner worried that secondhand marijuana smoke could cause them to fail a drug test? This is a common concern. We’ve reviewed the research and haven’t been able to find any published studies that passive or incidental exposure will result in a positive drug test.

Offer Cannabis Resources and Education

Does your partner know the difference between full-spectrum CBD hemp containing under 0.3% THC versus marijuana products with higher THC levels? Do they understand that you don’t need to smoke marijuana for it to be effective?

Check in with your partner to make sure that you’re both talking about the same thing. They might assume that you plan to smoke or vape marijuana flower that will get you high, while you’re actually planning to start with an edible or oil that contains more CBD than THC.

Your first instinct might be to answer your partner’s questions with “Google it.” However, there are thousands of websites offering misinformation on both sides of the cannabis debate.

That’s one reason we formed the Leaf411 nonprofit hotline—to provide a trustworthy resource to the public, providing medically-sound, balanced information.

Our Leaf411 library is a good starting point, offering a list of resources providing a balanced view.

Our registered nurses who staff the FREE Leaf411 hotline are also a great resource. You don’t have to be a cannabis user to call us. We take calls from many non-cannabis users, including spouses, family members, and clinicians who are simply seeking more information to help their patients.

Creating Shared Expectations Around Cannabis Use

It’s important to talk to your partner about how, when and where you plan to use CBD hemp or marijuana, coming up with a plan that both of you can live with.

Some people simply don’t like the smell of marijuana. They may worry that it will cause everyone in the house to smell like they’ve been smoking, or that neighbors will notice the smell. This is a legitimate concern!

Fortunately, there are many alternatives to smoking, including vapes which produce less odor, as well as edibles, tinctures, and even transdermal and topical products.

Other areas you’ll want to discuss are listed below. Your decisions will likely be shaped in part by why you’re using CBD hemp or marijuana. For example, if your goal is to reduce social anxiety, then it won’t be especially helpful if your partner insists that you only use cannabis at home after everyone else is in bed.

Kids: Whether or not to use cannabis around your children is both a highly personal decision, and also a hotly-debated issue. Pediatricians express concerns about secondhand smoke, as well as risks with parents being intoxicated with any substances, including cannabis, while caregiving. On the other hand, more parents like Kaycee Bawdon are speaking out about responsibly using cannabis while parenting. Many parents point out that drinking alcohol around kids is widely accepted, even though it is a more dangerous substance. As a starting point for discussing this issue with your partner, check out this article to read rules different parents have set around using cannabis at home.

Visitors: For many of us, marijuana was a common presence in our younger days. Visit a friend’s dorm room, and they might offer you a hit off their bong. Of course, many dorm room relics no longer fit in our lives.

While many adults enjoy the social aspects of modern cannabis culture, others prefer to keep their use private. Talk to your partner about how to handle this issue in your home, recognizing that different situations may call for different rules.

A Few Final Thoughts on the Importance of Trust

Your partner may not be the biggest fan of cannabis, but hopefully they will respect and support your right to use CBD hemp or marijuana products in a legal, safe, responsible manner. You can help the cause, so to speak, by being truthful about your use. Nothing creates mistrust faster than sneaking around and lying.

Respect is a two-way street. If your partner chooses to not use CBD hemp or marijuana, it’s important for you to respect their decision. Resist the urge to pressure them to try your new vape “just one time” even if you think they’d love it.

Need Help Starting the Conversation?

Our Leaf411 cannabis-trained nurses are available to provide balanced education and guidance on safe, legal cannabis use. We’ve even had couples call and put us on speaker phone, so they could both be part of the conversation!

We encourage you or your partner to call us with your questions at 1-844-LEAF411 (844-532-3411).

The Leaf411 cannabis nurse hotline provides free education and directional support to the general public about the safe use of legal cannabis. We partner with select business members who meet our rigorous standards to extend our education and outreach efforts.


Planning Your First Dispensary Visit

Medically reviewed by Katherine Golden, RN
Written by Denise Rustning

If you’ve never visited a recreational or medical marijuana dispensary before, it can be stressful knowing where to start. How do you choose the best dispensary for your needs? What methods of payment do they take?

We’ve all been there at one point! Leaf411 board member Ella Cressman recalls her first dispensary visit in the video below. Ella is the founder of HHP Collective, and is a licensed esthetician who has extensive training and experience formulating cannabidiol (CBD) topical products.

Finding a Good Dispensary

It seems like Google has everything covered these days, and marijuana dispensaries are no exception. You can search “dispensary near me” to find nearby options. The results typically include Google reviews and photos that provide a sense of product quality and store atmosphere. The dispensary website will also be listed, where you can find more information on the type of dispensary (recreational or medical), hours of operation and other details.

The Leaf411 resource guide is also a great place to check. Our supporting members have been fully vetted to ensure they are compliant with all regulations, and are committed to providing consistent, high-quality products along with attentive customer service.

There are a few online directories like Leafly that list dispensaries along with reviews and product menus from many locations. It’s important to know that companies pay to be listed and promoted on Leafly, so the amount of information about specific dispensaries may vary. 

Want to make new friends while visiting a dispensary? Consider taking a tour!

Katherine Golden, RN, Leaf411 CEO, looks at cannabis plants in Seed & Smith’s cannabis cultivation facility in Denver, CO.
Katherine Golden, RN, Leaf411 CEO, touring the Seed & Smith’s cannabis cultivation facility.

A Great First-Time Option: Tour a Dispensary

A growing number of dispensaries offer free tours where you can learn more about their products. Leaf411 member Seed & Smith offers 40-minute tours showing their grow facilities, and how they harvest, process and extract cannabis for concentrates. You can even smell fresh terpenes on the tour!

Many community centers and senior programs also offer guided tours of local dispensaries (only in states with legalized marijuana, of course). These tours are popular with seniors who are curious about cannabis for health and wellness. 

Looking for Specific Cannabis Products?

If you’re looking for a specific product, you can use Leafly or the product manufacturer’s website to find nearby dispensaries that sell what you’re looking for. Check out Leaf411’s cannabis manufacturer listings to find high-quality products made by our supporting members.

Remember that marijuana products containing over 0.3% THC cannot be shipped for sale across state lines. If you’re eyeing a high-THC edible made by a company based in Oregon, chances are that it won’t be available outside of Oregon unless the company is a multi-state operator (MSO) with licensed production facilities in other states. For example, our supporting member Altus produces gummies and tablets that are sold in both Colorado and Nevada, and the incredibles brand is available in Colorado, Illinois and Oregon.

Making Your List Before You Go

Visiting a dispensary can feel a bit like being a kid in a candy store, especially when you’re checking out the edibles!

We suggest that you review the dispensary’s menu online before visiting. Use it to make a list of products you’re interested in. You can also list your questions and priorities—like wanting a flower strain that has high amounts of linalool (the terpene that’s also found in lavender).

Need help sorting out all the options? Our Leaf411 nurses can help at no cost to you through our hotline 844-LEAF411 (844-532-3411). Our priority as an education-focused nonprofit is always to find the best options for our callers. We don’t get commissions for recommending one product over another.

Things to Take on Your First Dispensary Visit

You’ve made your list and found a dispensary that you’re excited to visit. Before you head out the door, make sure you have the following:

  • Government-issued identification: Valid government-issued photo identification is required to verify you are 21 or over (or 18 or older with a med card). Your ID will be checked several times during your dispensary visit (more on that below)
  • Med card: Depending on the dispensary, you may need to bring a medical marijuana card. In states with only legal medical marijuana, a med card is required to shop at dispensaries and legally possess marijuana.
  • Cash: Cash is king at most dispensaries. This is in large part due to federal banking restrictions preventing dispensaries from accepting credit card payments. Some dispensaries provide onsite ATMs in their lobbies, or even the ability to use your debit card and pin at the register. However, ATMs can break down or run out of cash. Your best bet is bring enough cash to cover your purchase.
  • Don’t forget sales tax when planning on how much cash you’ll need! Sales tax on recreational marijuana is much higher than sales tax at the grocery store. States set their own tax rate, then counties and local municipalities add on additional taxes as well. The marijuana sales tax rate can range from 5% to almost 50% sales tax, depending on the dispensary’s location. When you visit a dispensary, be sure to ask if their prices include sales tax, or if it’s added on at the end when you check out.

When You Arrive at the Dispensary

Walking through the dispensary door can be a scary moment. Odds are that you’ll find a smiling, helpful face on the other side, though!

  • When you first arrive, a receptionist will check your government-issued ID. They may also scan it into their system. This is so they can track the total amount of product you’ve purchased from their company within a day. States have different limits on how much residents and out-of-state visitors can buy each day. Dispensaries can face stiff fines and even jail time if they allow customers to abuse the daily limits.
  • If you are a medical marijuana patient, you’ll also need to share your med card
  • After you check in, a budtender will be assigned to help you. If the dispensary is busy, you may have to wait a few minutes before one is available. Many dispensaries like our members Lightshade, Seed & Smith, and Smoking Gun have comfortable waiting areas with clean restrooms, cannabis periodicals, dispensary menus, and educational information to read.

A Different Shopping Experience

Your budtender will meet you in the waiting area and take you into the main dispensary area. Many states require the budtender to check your ID again, and even ask you questions to verify the ID really belongs to you. Don’t be surprised if you get asked your zip code, eye color or other details from your ID.

After your identity is confirmed, the budtender will ask what you’re looking for. This is where your list comes in handy! You might also want to mention that it’s your first dispensary visit, so that the budtender can make sure to explain the buying process as well as any limits on how much you can buy in a day.

Dispensary Dos and Don’ts

Shopping at a dispensary is different than any other retail experience. This is mostly due to laws which vary from state to state. In Colorado, for example, budtenders can hold open a jar of marijuana flower (buds) for you to smell. In California, though, the laws require flower to be packaged and sold in sealed containers. 

No matter where you’re shopping, the following list of dos and don’ts apply.

Do:

  • Bring a positive attitude and open mind. Budtenders help a lot of people who are new to cannabis. They don’t expect you to be an expert!
  • Bring your list along with your questions. While budtenders cannot provide medical advice, they can share product information and other customers’ experiences with different products.
  • Ask the budtender if they’ve tried a product that you’re curious about. You may be surprised at how candid their reviews are.
  • Ask before reaching out to touch or smell a product. 

Don’t:

  • Don’t talk about buying products for other people unless you are the designated caregiver shopping for a medical marijuana patient. State laws prohibit you from sharing your own medical marijuana with others. Recreational marijuana can be gifted to another adult within the same legal state; however, it cannot be sold, even at cost. Why is this? State regulators are concerned about products ending up on the black market or in the hands of young people.
  • Don’t ask about taking product out of state. It’s illegal to transport marijuana across state lines, since federal laws prohibit interstate transport.
  • Don’t ask for samples. Onsite consumption of products is strictly prohibited at dispensaries. 
  • Don’t feel pressured to buy something that doesn’t feel right for you. This is where your list comes in handy, keeping you on track. If the budtender is pushing a product you’re not interested in, you could say, “Thanks for that suggestion. I’ll check it out at a different time. But today, I’m looking for something else.”
  • Don’t ask for medical advice. Budtenders are prohibited from providing medical advice, and the majority do not have a medical background. However, the cannabis-trained RNs at Leaf411 are qualified to answer your medical questions!

Our Leaf411 button for budtenders to wear. It says “Not a Doctor. Ask a cannabis nurse for free at 844-Leaf411”
Our Leaf411 buttons remind budtenders and customers about our free nurse hotline.

Join us on our Facebook page to share your first dispensary visit stories or questions!

The Leaf411 cannabis nurse hotline provides free education and directional support to the general public about the safe use of legal cannabis. We partner with select business members who meet our rigorous standards to extend our education and outreach efforts.


Leaf411 Question of the Month: Does Cannabis Interact with Other Medication?

Medically reviewed by Katherine Golden, RN
Written by Denise Rustning

Approximately half of all Americans take at least one prescription drug every day, according to a Consumer Reports study. Many more people take non-prescription, over-the-counter painkillers, antacids and other medications.

Not surprisingly, a fair number of these people are seeking alternatives to their medications. In many cases, people are turning to cannabis—either marijuana (cannabis containing >0.3% THC, which is sold legally in dispensaries), or cannabidiol (CBD) hemp products that are sold in retail stores and online.

Smiling senior woman on phone holding prescription bottle, asking about drug interactions with cannabis.

Thinking About Adding Cannabis to Your Medicine Cabinet?

We always suggest that you talk to your healthcare provider before taking any new medication. That includes CBD hemp or marijuana. Our Leaf411 cannabis-trained nurses can provide education and guidance as well as how to discuss the possibility of adding plant medicine into your regimen with your healthcare team via our free hotline: 844-LEAF411 (844-532-3411).

Also, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider before stopping any prescription medication. It is imperative that your prescribing physician should always be the one who guides you with stopping or weaning off any pharmaceuticals.

Understanding How Cannabis Interacts with Other Medications

Have you ever wondered why you’re told to not drink grapefruit juice with certain prescription drugs?

Prescription bottle with warning labels to not eat grapefruit while taking medication, and to take medication as prescribed.

When you take medicine by mouth, it passes through your digestive system. The digestive system’s enzymes metabolize (break down) the medicine in your liver so that some of it can enter your bloodstream. The medicine dose takes into account normal digestive processes.

However, grapefruit juice affects several digestive enzymes. It blocks the enzymes’ action, and can result in too much or too little of the drug entering your bloodstream.

What does this have to do with cannabis? Well, the cannabinoids in cannabis—especially CBD—affect your digestive enzymes in a similar way that grapefruit does. In fact, scientists have found that CBD has an even stronger effect on the cytochrome P450 enzyme than grapefruit.

Cannabis, Statins, and Blood Thinners: Use Caution

An emerging area of concern is with cardiovascular medications, including statins and blood thinners. Many of these medications are metabolized by the same liver enzymes as cannabis. As a result, people who use cannabis while also taking statins or blood thinners may end up getting a higher dose of their prescription medicine than they intended, since the liver is breaking down the drug differently than normal.

Does this mean you cannot use cannabis? Not necessarily. The key is to talk with your provider and discuss any changes that need to be made to your medication dosage, frequency or timing. You might consider sharing the link to this article from the Journal of the American College of Cardiology which provides very conservative guidance for doctors to use as a screening tool who have no experience or knowledge about cannabis. 

The Benefit of Starting Slow with Cannabis

Not all drugs are metabolized by the same liver enzymes. However, even if you’re taking medications that are not directly impacted by cannabis in your digestive system, it’s worth it to start with a low dose of marijuana or CBD, and to go slow. By starting slow, you can see how the addition of marijuana or CBD impacts your ongoing medications (after checking with a healthcare provider, of course!).

Also, Dr. David Gordon (Dr. Dave), founder of 4Pillars Health & Wellness, notes that people usually only need a small dose of cannabis for therapeutic benefits. This minimizes the risk of side effects. Dr. Dave explains that as an integrative physician, “We start with just a small amount, just to stimulate our own internal system. These are dosages that often don’t cause any intoxication or have any significant interaction.”

Dr. Dave is experienced at looking up potential interactions with medicinal cannabis. He’s found that most drug interactions don’t preclude someone from using cannabis, though he notes that drug doses may need to be adjusted. (You can read more from our recent interview with Dr. Dave here.)

Getting Answers to Your Cannabis Questions

Our Leaf411 hotline nurses have special training on cannabis-medication interactions. They also have access to a robust database of research.

We encourage you to call our free hotline at 844-LEAF411 (844-532-3411) with your questions about how CBD or marijuana may interact with other medications you are taking. 


Do You Need a Medical Marijuana Card?

Medically reviewed by Katherine Golden, RN
Written by Denise Rustning

“Should I get a medical marijuana card?” We hear that question a lot on the Leaf411 cannabis nurse hotline, as callers seek out the best way to access legal cannabis.

We can help you sort out your options based on your needs as well as what options exist where you live. Check out our Leaf library for your state’s current cannabis laws.

Is Legal Recreational Marijuana an Option for You? Then You Might Not Need a Med Card

Many of our callers are just starting out using cannabis and only require small doses of THC. Lower dose products are more easily found in recreational dispensaries. You don’t need a medical marijuana card (often called an “MMJ card” or “med card”) to visit recreational (rec) dispensaries, though you’ll need a state-issued ID as proof that you are 21 or older.

Also, it’s worth noting that cannabidiol (CBD hemp) containing less than 0.3% THC is federally legal. (Each state still has the authority to allow CBD hemp sales or not). CBD hemp products are available over-the-counter and online in nearly every state, no med card required! We’ll talk more about CBD later in this post.

If you’re just starting out with cannabis and live in a fully legal state that has both rec and medical marijuana, we suggest reaching out to a cannabis-trained clinician first for advice on the best routes, ratios and products. Our free Leaf411 hotline is a good resource! 

In many cases, these products will be available to you without a med card, saving you both the time and cost of applying for a card.

David Gordon, MD, a Leaf411 advisory board member and integrative medicine practitioner notes that, “In Colorado, a lot of the products that we might use for medicinal purposes are only available on the rec side. Companies aren’t making as many products for the medical side because it’s not as profitable.” 

While it can be challenging to find products made specifically for the medical market, we’re proud to have incredibles brand as one of our supporting members. The incredibles brand is committed to providing consumers with safe, consistently high-quality products.

Clinician writing a medical assessment on a clipboard

Understanding Med Card Qualifications

Before we get into cases when a med card makes sense, it’s important to talk about the qualifications for getting a medical marijuana card. Covered conditions vary from state to state. For example, in Colorado, the state list includes specific disabling or debilitating conditions. Oklahoma, on the other hand, is one of the least restrictive states. Their law leaves it up to the doctor to determine if cannabis is a good treatment option.

Check this link for an updated list of different states’ qualifying medical conditions.

When a Med Card Makes Sense

Some states only legalized medical marijuana, not recreational use. If you live in one of these states, then your only option for accessing legal cannabis is by qualifying for a med card.

Med cards are also the only option for people under the age of 21 to access legal cannabis.

Keep reading for information on how to get a card, as well as how it’s different from getting a prescription for other medications.

It’s important to know what a med card gets you, as well as what protections it does not provide (you might be surprised!).

What a Med Card Provides in Some States

  • Access to products at lower cost than recreational dispensaries
  • Lower sales taxes when buying at a medical dispensary
  • Higher doses and higher limits on how much you can buy in a day
  • The ability to legally grow your own cannabis for personal use in some (but not all) states 

What the Med Card Doesn’t Do

It’s important to remember that all marijuana—medical and recreational—remains federally illegal, even when legalized at the state level.

Other Considerations Before Getting a Med Card

Will a med card restrict your right to own firearms? The answer is a tricky one.

Cannabis is federally illegal, and the feds oversee gun licensing and ownership. By the letter of the law, anyone using a federally illegal drug, or addicted to an illegal drug, is prohibited from owning or buying firearms. 

If you’re buying a gun, you typically must complete a background check—specifically, the Firearms Transaction Record, or Form 4473. This form includes a question specific to marijuana use, and reinforces the federal prohibition, asking:

Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?

Warning: The use or possession of marijuana remains unlawful under Federal law regardless of whether it has been legalized or decriminalized for medicinal or recreational purposes in the state where you reside.

In other words, if you answer truthfully (and you should—lying on Form 4473 is considered a felony offense!), then your background check may fail. 

At Leaf411, we’re nurses, not lawyers. We recommend that you consult with an attorney if you have concerns about whether your cannabis use will impact your right to own or buy firearms. 

A number of law firms now specialize in marijuana law. In fact, our board member David Wunderlich, Esq., Senior Attorney at McAllister Garfield, P.C., played a key role in improving Colorado’s laws around medical marijuana, and regularly speaks on cannabis and hemp issues. 

Medical marijuana use may also impact state-administered public assistance benefits such as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) in states that drug test welfare recipients. Interestingly, in Missouri, having a med card can actually protect your benefits. However, the rules vary from state to state and are frequently being updated. We strongly suggest you ask your social service agency whether holding a med card would impact your public assistance benefits.

How to Apply for a Med Card

You’ve weighed the pros and cons, as well as options available in your area, and have decided to get a med card. Where do you start?

  • Search online using “med card” and your state to find state-specific information for obtaining a medical card in your area. Our Leaf411 nurses can also help via our free anonymous hotline at 1-844-LEAF411 (844-532-3411).
  • Check your eligibility, making sure you have a qualifying medical condition.
  • Confirm any special requirements, such as if you’re applying as the legal representative of another adult or someone under 18.
  • Note the process for obtaining a card, including required fees. In some cases, discounts may be available for specific patient groups. For example, Oklahoma provides a discount to 100% disabled veterans.
  • Find a doctor who provides medical marijuana evaluations. Your regular primary care provider may provide this service, though many primary care doctors may be unfamiliar with the med card evaluation process. Some states require that evaluations take place in-person, while other states allow phone or online evaluations.

Clinician holding pills in one hand, cannabis flower in other hand, visualizing how med card is different than prescription

How a Med Card and a Prescription Are Different

You may think that the med card evaluation process will be a lot like getting a prescription from your primary care doctor. In fact, that’s rarely the case! The doctor’s certification simply tells the state that you qualify for a med card based on their assessment of your health history and conditions. It doesn’t tell you which products to start with or how much to take.

When you schedule a med card consultation, it’s worth asking whether the provider provides guidance on using cannabis to treat your health condition. If they do not, you may want to seek out a cannabis doctor who provides this service, such as Dr. David Gordon, who we recently interviewed

You can also reach out to a resource like the cannabis-trained nurses at Leaf411 for suggestions on where to start.

A Note for Patients Living in States Without Legal Cannabis

Cannabis containing over 0.3% THC remains completely illegal in 17 states. However, federally-legal CBD hemp products containing less than 0.3% THC are legal in almost all states. Full spectrum CBD hemp products contain many beneficial plant compounds shown to impact a variety of health conditions. In fact, even in states with legal cannabis, we sometimes suggest starting with CBD hemp products for certain health concerns.

At Leaf411, our cannabis nurses emphasize the safe legal use of cannabis. When you call, we listen to your specific needs and concerns. We will help  find options and guide you to resources that best fit your lifestyle and health goals.

Call our free anonymous hotline today at 844-LEAF411 (844-532-3411).


How to Use Cannabis

From Edibles to Vapes, Leaf411 Has Your Questions Covered

Medically reviewed by Katherine Golden, RN
Written by Denise Rustning

When we first started taking calls on the hotline, one of the biggest surprises was hearing how many people thought marijuana has to be smoked to be effective. In fact, we even featured this misconception as our first Question of the Month!

Many different types of marijuana (cannabis containing >0.3% THC – sold in dispensaries in states that have legalized recreational or medical marijuana) and cannabidiol (CBD) hemp products are available today, designed to fit a wide variety of needs. Your decision on how to use cannabis may be driven by personal preference. You might also consider factors such as how quickly a product will take effect, how long the effect will last, and what issues you’re targeting.

Our cannabis-trained registered nurses are always happy to answer your questions at no cost when you call our free, anonymous Leaf411 hotline 844-LEAF411 (844-532-3411). 

However, we know you might not have specific questions yet. In our guide below, we provide information on different options for using marijuana and CBD products. You’ll also find tips for getting the right dose of this plant-based medicine.

Keep reading, or skip ahead using the links below.


Leaf411 Question of the Month - December 2019

By Katherine Golden, RN
Leaf411 CEO

Each month, I’ll share insights on questions we receive at the Leaf411 cannabis nurse hotline. While the hotline is anonymous, we keep track of the types of questions we get so that we can continually improve our services.

A Surprising Cannabis Question

One issue I hear all the time, including when we’re out at events like our Veteran’s Day booth, is that people think they have to inhale to get the medicinal benefits from cannabis. It’s surprising to me that this misconception is still prevalent across all age groups.

For those of us in the industry, we know that many different THC and CBD product types are out there—edibles, tinctures, transdermal patches and gels. Sometimes we assume that everyone else knows about these options as well. But when I discuss ways that cannabis can be consumed, people are surprised and have a lot of questions about which route might work best for them.

For example, I recently had a caller who wanted to try cannabis for a specific health concern but was worried how it might impact their liver issues. They had no idea that transdermal patches were an option. When I suggested a transdermal patch, they responded, “Oh, like a pain patch!” It was a medication delivery method the caller knew how to use, and it offered a safe alternative. Transdermal patches deliver THC, CBD and other cannabinoids directly to the bloodstream, bypassing the liver.

I also educated the caller about transdermal gel pens which are used on the venous areas like the inside of the wrist. They were just blown away that these types of advanced products exist in our market. Calls like this really underscore the need for education.

At Leaf411, Our Priority Is Always the Public

Our priority at Leaf411 is always the public, helping people find the best information and resources for safe cannabis use.

When I get a call, my first priority is to listen and understand why the caller wants to go down this road. I’ll ask questions about products they’re already using. If they haven’t tried cannabis yet, I’ll ask why they want to start and what their goals are.

I also spend a lot of time discussing balance. Cannabis by itself is not a magic bullet. I ask questions about callers’ activities of daily living, diet, exercise and sleep as well.

Cannabis is a plant that is shown to have benefits. However, it’s only one part of lifestyle changes that I and the other nurses encourage callers to consider.

I recently talked to someone who thought they would need to move to a different state to access legal cannabis. In fact, their home state has legalized medical cannabis, and hemp CBD products are available to be shipped to most states. They had not considered these options before our conversation.

My goal is to offer solutions that are financially sound and accessible, based on each caller’s unique situation and needs.

When it Comes to Cannabis, More is Not Always Better

We tend to think more is better. Based on my conversations with callers, that attitude has extended into cannabis and hemp CBD as well. But the latest science is showing that sometimes just a small amount  of cannabis can provide symptom relief. We don’t need to flood our systems, when it comes to what most people are trying to treat.

Also, there is a point where you can take too much marijuana, or even too much hemp CBD. I educate callers about precautions they need to take when using cannabis, just like there would be precautions with any other medications.

Launching the Leaf411 Chat Feature

We want to create the best service possible at Leaf411. It was important for us to get the phone hotline up and running, making sure it was a positive experience for people who contacted us, before adding other options to connect.

Last week, we launched the chat function on our website, providing an additional option for people to contact us.

When someone begins a chat with me, I bring the same level of attention to their concerns. I may start off chatting with someone online and then ask them to call the hotline to talk if at all possible.

People have so much to say, and tone of voice is so important to understanding someone’s needs and concerns. My hope is that the human touch that I and the other nurses provide through the phone hotline will reassure callers, even those who initially reached out to us via chat.

Call or chat our free, anonymous hotline today at 844-LEAF411 (844-532-3411) for answers to your cannabis questions!