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What’s the Difference Between a Recommendation and a Prescription?

October 2, 2019 • Lakewood Medical • Uncategorized

Though they may seem similar, a recommendation for medical marijuana is not the same as a prescription. Here’s why.

Ohio residents considering whether to take medical marijuana to treat the symptoms of 21 debilitating illnesses may be confused as to why they need a recommendation for the medication rather than a prescription. In Ohio, physicians cannot prescribe medical marijuana as they would other medications. Doctors designated by the state to recommend medical marijuana are restricted by law to hand out a recommendation for medical cannabis to their patients, not a prescription.

The reason for this distinction is based on federal law, which classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug. As such, it’s considered to have no medicinal value in addition to posing a greater risk for abuse among users. Therefore, doctors are prohibited from prescribing marijuana, even for medical purposes.

Even though Ohio has legalized medical marijuana, this federal regulation overrides any state law. Yet a court ruling back in 2002 said physicians could “recommend” medical marijuana as a treatment option to their patients.

Court Ruling

In 2002, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a class action suit brought by doctors and patients in California. The plaintiffs in Conant v. Walters argued that banning doctors from recommending medical marijuana was a violation of their rights to free speech. The court sided with the doctors and patients, thereby providing the legal justification for states to allow medical marijuana recommendations in place of prescriptions.

In Ohio, a doctor certified by the state to recommend medical marijuana provides a patient with a written recommendation for the cannabis. The patient then registers with the state’s Board of Pharmacy for a medical marijuana card. With that card, patients can enter a state-approved dispensary where they can purchase cannabis.

There are several important differences between a recommendation and a prescription. Because marijuana cannot be prescribed legally, insurance companies will not cover the cost of medical cannabis in Ohio. In addition, physicians cannot actually specify a dosage for medical marijuana nor suggest a type of cannabis for their patients. 

How to Obtain a Recommendation for Medical Marijuana

A doctor recommends medical marijuana after a dialogue with a patient, as they would for a prescription. In Ohio, physicians qualified to recommend medical marijuana consult with patients to determine if cannabis will alleviate the symptoms of chronic conditions such as ALS, Crohn’s disease, chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, cancer, and epilepsy. Doctors first review a patient’s medical history, current health status, and symptoms. With that information, the doctor chooses whether the patient qualifies for medical marijuana therapy.

Beyond handing out a recommendation, doctors can follow up with patients regularly to check how the patient reacts to cannabis. Ohio permits approved users to obtain a 90-day supply of medical marijuana. As they begin treatment, patients may wish to keep a journal of their reactions to the substance. In discussion with the doctor, patients can adjust the dosage and the means of delivery (vaporization, edibles, lotions, or tinctures). Open communication between doctor and patient ensures the patient receives the maximum benefits of medical cannabis.

Is Medical Marijuana Right for You?

The physicians at Lakewood Medical Clinic are qualified to recommend medical marijuana to patients who have tried other methods to reduce the painful symptoms of chronic conditions. Based on a thorough evaluation of your medical history and current health situation, a doctor may be able to provide you with a recommendation for medical marijuana. 

Once a recommendation is made, our staff guides patients through the process of obtaining a medical marijuana card and purchasing cannabis. Our physicians can also consult with patients as they continue to use medical marijuana to make sure they are experiencing symptom relief. Contact our office today for an appointment to learn more about medical marijuana and how it can help you or a loved one.