What Is the Rationale Behind Requiring Medical Cannabis Cards?
A chronic pain sufferer attempting to enter the Zion Medicinal medical cannabis pharmacy in Cedar City, UT would be asked to produce their medical cannabis card. Only with a valid card could the person purchase cannabis medications. Note that Utah is not alone in requiring medical cannabis cards. The practice is fairly universal. But why? What is the rationale behind it?
There is no single answer to that question. If you polled every lawmaker who participated in crafting a medical cannabis law, you would probably find as many different reasons for requiring medical cannabis cards as there are statewide laws themselves.
A general perusal of state medical cannabis laws allows us to further understand the rationale by categorizing reasons lawmakers have come up with. As I see it, there are four main categories:
1. Regulatory Control
Medical cannabis is illegal under federal law despite being okay in 38 states and the District of Columbia. As such, it is regulated at the state level. Requiring patients to obtain medical cannabis cards aids state regulators as they seek to keep programs under control. The more control regulators maintain, the easier it is to ensure that:
- Patients have access to safe medical cannabis products.
- Medical cannabis is not diverted away from medical use.
- Cannabis production, distribution, and consumption can be tracked.
- Medical cannabis products can be effectively taxed.
I am guessing that taxation and preventing diversion are the two biggest concerns under this category.
2. Patient Safety
Lawmakers also cite patient safety concerns as reasons for implementing medical cannabis card programs. For starters, requiring the cards only after medical evaluation increases the likelihood that patients treating with cannabis are doing so on recommendation from their doctors. It is assumed that obtaining a card what also guarantee:
- Dosage guidance from doctors or pharmacists.
- Proper monitoring of adverse effects.
- Protection against minors having access to cannabis products.
In essence, requiring medical cannabis cards ostensibly protects patience in the same way they are protected by prescriptions. Doctors need to be directly involved.
3. Public Safety
The next category is that of public safety. Some lawmakers believe that requiring medical cannabis cards will limit consumption to only those patients who truly need the drug. By extension, this mitigates public safety concerns associated with cannabis use. Whether or not that is true is a matter of debate.
Maintaining community standards and promoting better research and data collection are two additional reasons under this category. Incidentally, public safety is one of the more commonly cited reasons for tightly controlling medical cannabis consumption.
4. Market Control
Finally, part of the reasoning behind requiring medical cannabis cards involves market control. Lawmakers in states like Utah do not want their medical cannabis programs to become wild west business environments. They implement rules and regulations to prevent it from happening.
Requiring cards leads to maintaining a higher market standard that ostensibly creates jobs, maintains reasonable and fair competition, boosts local economies, and encourages entrepreneurs to invest in medical cannabis.
Just Reporting the Reasons
It should be understood that I am just reporting some of the many reasons lawmakers claim medical cannabis cards are necessary. I am in no way implying that all the cited reasons are valid. And of course, there are many reasons this post doesn’t mention.
The fact remains that requiring medical cannabis cards is pretty standard in the more than three-dozen states with legal medical cannabis programs. That is not likely to change even if the federal government ultimately decriminalizes marijuana. Medical consumption is likely going to require a medical card for the foreseeable future.