• Jennifer Betz

Getting a Medical Marijuana Recommendation in VA: Finding a Practitioner Understands Cannabis


Finding a Doctor who understands how medical marijuana can help you

The buzz over cannabis in Virginia has consumed our minds here at Virginia Marijuana Card for most of 2021. With adult-use cannabis being legal to possess starting on July 1, many residents are disappointed to learn that there will be nowhere to purchase it legally until 2024.


The only way to legally purchase marijuana in Virginia until then, is to get a Virginia Marijuana Card. Fortunately, there are numerous conditions that qualify for treatment in Virginia with medical marijuana, and getting a recommendation is simple if you know where to look.


The challenge is in knowing where to look. Residents of more urban areas of Virginia may have an easier time finding a health professional who will recommend medical marijuana; but even if you live in Norfolk or Richmond, you may run into trouble finding a doctor who is comfortable providing guidance in developing your treatment plan.


Bon Secours Medical Group and other health systems in Virginia prohibit their doctors from recommending medical marijuana, some health systems have yet to make a decision on what they will allow, and education regarding cannabis in the medical field is still lacking in the state.


If you’re hesitant to talk to your doctor, or you’re unsure of where to turn for a recommendation, we’ve got you covered! In this post, we are going to provide you with everything you need in order to find a doctor who can help you get started on your path to wellness with cannabis, whether you’re a long-term cannabis connoisseur, or a complete novice.


Icy Tables, Paper Gowns, and Uncomfortable Questions: Having a Conversation with Your Doctor About Cannabis

You’re sitting on the chilly examination table at your annual checkup, wishing that paper gown you’re trying to cover your bits with was just a little warmer. The doctor who told your dad to start taking statins for his cholesterol last month and adjusted your grandmother’s insulin the month before, is now asking you about the regularity of your bowel movements.


You just want to get this line of questioning over with so you can ask about medical marijuana for your back pain. Maybe you could stop taking tramadol or vicodin if you could figure out how to safely use cannabis instead.


Your doctor finally finishes and your heart starts pounding from nervousness. You tell your doctor that you were reading about using medical marijuana for … and before you can finish, Doc shakes her head.


She tells you she can’t give you a recommendation even if she thought it was the right thing to do, and she doesn’t know enough about cannabis to help you figure out a treatment plan anyway. And that’s the end of the conversation.


This is too often the unfortunate scene when it comes to getting medical marijuana.


Why Won’t Doctors and Health Professionals Talk About Medical Marijuana With Their Patients?

Their Medical Group May Forbid It

Even if your doctor wants to recommend medical marijuana for you, they may not be able to do it because of restrictions placed upon them by the hospital system in which they work. Because marijuana is still illegal at the Federal level, many doctors and medical conglomerates are concerned about the potential liability for any doctor or practitioner who recommends cannabis for treatment.


When your doctor could lose their affiliation with a hospital system where they practice simply for certifying that you may be a candidate for medical marijuana, they are not likely going to want to discuss the subject with you too deeply. It’s just easier to prescribe some opioids for that back pain and move on.


Despite the Federal position on medical marijuana, Veterans may actually have the easiest time getting guidance once they get a recommendation. Veterans Administration doctors are not allowed to certify a patient for medical marijuana, but they are required to discuss treatment and give guidance if a veteran is using cannabis for their conditions.


Research in the US is Lacking

We have to be specific about this, because there are plenty of places where you’ll see a lack of research cited as reasoning for indecision about the merits of cannabis. However, cannabis research has been taking place for decades in Israel, where medical marijuana has been legal on a national level since 2013.


US-based companies—and even the US government—have been funding medical marijuana research in Israel for years.


The story in the United States is completely different. Since 1968, the only grower authorized to grow cannabis for research in the US is at the University of Mississippi—in a state that recently used the state Supreme Court to overturn a ballot initiative getting medical marijuana legalized.


The UM School of Pharmacy’s National Center for Natural Products Research (NCNPR) has a 12 acre farm that all researchers must get their cannabis from in order to conduct any US-based study, and the DEA has to give its approval before any work can begin.


With such limited access to supply, medical marijuana research is bound by red tape and impossible expenses.


Your Healthcare Professional Probably Wishes Things Were Different

Health professionals generally entered their chosen field to help people navigate their way to wellness. Modern training and education is often patient-centered, and healthcare professionals are interested in giving you the tools you need to make the choices that make sense for you.


However, healthcare professionals are struggling to keep up with the pace of the health environment as it is. And the focus for the last year has been on keeping a pandemic under control. Which means that your practitioner has likely not had the opportunity to understand the nuances of treating a condition or symptoms with cannabis.


Time is of the Essence—In Healthcare, There is Little to Spare

General practitioners spend between 13 and 28 minutes with their patients, and one in four of them spend less than 12 minutes on an exam. For every patient a health professional sees, there are usually ten more waiting to put on that paper gown and sit on the icy table.


Because there are so many variations in strain and format for medical marijuana, supervising the care of a patient who uses cannabis comes with the risk of being time-consuming. This may be a reason for many doctors to ignore the possibilities.


Finding a Virginia Health Professional Who Will Recommend Cannabis

Figuring out what you need is a good first step in finding a doctor who can help. For some people, the choice to use medical marijuana is simple and straightforward. Those who want to take medical marijuana for chronic pain and are on no other medications will not need much guidance.


For others, it can be a lot more complicated. If you’ve got a diagnosis that medical marijuana is not indicated for, or if you’re taking medications that may have interactions with cannabis, you’re probably going to want to talk to a doctor who is educated enough about cannabis to provide some supervision.


Questions to Ask Yourself When Looking for a Marijuana Doctor

  • Will cannabis affect your other medications?

  • Will it affect other unrelated conditions?

  • How experienced are you with cannabis?

  • Are you comfortable with the idea of experimenting to get the desired results?


Obviously, you’ll need a doctor who can be more involved if you are taking medications or have a condition that could be adversely affected by cannabis.


You’ll also want someone who can answer all your questions and help you find the right products if you are new to cannabis, or if you are uncomfortable with the idea of experimentation.


Talking to Your Regular Health Professional About Medical Marijuana

Once you know what you need in a marijuana doctor, finding one is a little bit easier. You may even feel more empowered talking to your own practitioner when you know what to ask for.


Here are some pointers on how to prepare for the conversation:


  • Know why you want to use medical marijuana. Is it because of your anxiety? Chronic pain? Multiple sclerosis?

  • Know the qualifying conditions for medical marijuana use in Virginia.

  • Keep in mind that your doctor’s job is to partner with you in order to devise a health plan that makes sense for you. That’s what you are paying this professional for.

  • Write a list of your questions ahead of time.

  • How might taking medical marijuana affect the other medications you take?

  • How might your other conditions be impacted by cannabis use?

  • How can your doctor help guide you in the right direction and supervise your care?

What to Do if You Don’t Have a Regular Practitioner (Or if You’re Just Too Nervous to Bring up Cannabis)

If you just can’t bring yourself to talk to your doctor about medical marijuana, or if you don’t have a doctor to talk to, then all is not lost. At Virginia Marijuana Card, we are here to help no matter what your situation is.


Our dedicated staff can answer any preliminary questions you have, and our doctors are happy to help you get the information you need in order to make confident decisions about your treatment plan moving forward. We offer unlimited follow-up visits for the time that your marijuana card is valid through us, and your comfort and care are our top priority.


Call us at (888) 633-5808 or make a telehealth evaluation appointment at Virginia Marijuana Card today, and get the personalized, focused care you deserve without the judgement!



Doctors Who Care. Relief You Can Trust.

At Virginia Marijuana Card, our mission is helping everyone achieve wellness safely and conveniently through increased access to MMJ. Our focus on education, inclusion, and acceptance will reduce stigma for our patients by providing equal access to timely information and compassionate care.


Call us at (888) 633-5808, or simply book a medical marijuana evaluation to start getting relief you can trust today!


Check out Virginia Marijuana Card’s Blog to keep up to date on the latest medical marijuana news, tips, and information. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to join the medical marijuana conversation in Virginia!


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