Guide To Maine Medical Cards

Despite recreational legislature being passed back in 2016, adult-use marijuana retailers have yet to open in the state of Maine. As a result, any individual wishing to purchase marijuana in the state must possess and present a medical card and matching state-issued identification. Fortunately, this poses little problem to Mainers due to the ease it takes to acquire said certification. Undeterred by or perhaps in spite of its serious reluctance to push forward with recreational marijuana plans, Maine offers one of the most inclusive medical programs in the nation. Being among the first states to approve a medical marijuana initiative in 1999, the state has had over two decades of improvement and adaptation to the legislature that has resulted in a thriving and welcoming medical community.

Unfortunately, this is not the case of all states. In those with fledgling medical programs, acquiring one’s medical certification can be a significant barrier to entry. A lack of interest shown by both state governments and local physicians can create a situation where it is entirely impractical and nearly impossible to consume marijuana legally. Even for the few who manage to find a medical professional willing to discuss the possibility of a certification, they often must be suffering from one of the listed qualifying conditions that the state has established as necessary for requiring medical marijuana, which notoriously excludes many serious ailments which equal if not worse than those listed. Additional factors such as extremely limited numbers of legal marijuana access points, restrictions placed on the number of patients that a doctor can recommend for a certification, and the substantial overall cost of not only acquiring but annually renewing one’s card are major players in the fight to decrease the spread and normalization of legal marijuana use nationwide.

Thankfully, for Mainers, gone are the days of restrictive qualifying conditions and searching for a doctor willing to issue a recommendation. Residents wishing to obtain their medical card need only to possess a state-issued identification, such as a driver's license, and be above the age of 18. For most, the easiest way of entering the state’s medical program is via a telecommunication call with a registered medical professional. Even prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, tele-certification was popular due to its convenience, but now has seen a burst in interest and activity due to the general inability to meet in person. With medical marijuana being considered an essential business in Maine, many medical marijuana retailers report actually seeing an increase in sales during the outbreak.

There are several organizations which offer such services for a minimal price; after filling out basic health information and uploading one’s medical records, a video call with a registered nurse practitioner is scheduled and oftentimes one will receive their certification on the same day as their appointment for as little as $50. Compared to other states where the certification process can cost hundreds of dollars and take months to complete, this is by far the most efficient method of entering Maine’s medical program.

That being said, telecommunication is not for everyone and comes with it’s own faults, especially for those unfamiliar with technology or wishing for a more extensive procedure. For those interested in a more traditional, person-specific medical examination, there are a plethora of doctors, nurse practitioners, and healthcare experts around the state who are fully capable and willing to sit down and discuss the specific implications of medical marijuana for one’s situation before issuing one’s card. A notable example of one such service is the Medical Marijuana Practitioners of Maine, a group dedicated to providing “safe and compliant access to Maine’s Medical Marijuana Program”. The group goes beyond the means of a typical doctor by conducting house calls for individual patient sessions, allowing time and privacy for individuals interested in discussing how marijuana relates to their specific needs. Furthermore, the Practitioners often collaborate with medical retailers to bring the group’s Mobile Certification Unit right to storefronts. A repurposed ambulance fully kitted to administering certifications, the MCU’s mobility allows walk-ins to immediately purchase marijuana after receiving their card in an accommodating and convenient environment. While the extreme accessibility and variety of options that Maine residents have to acquire their medical cards do not extend to those only visiting the state, Maine’s moniker as the Vacationland still holds true in regards to medical cannabis. As of 2019, the state began offering legal reciprocity for nearly every state with its own program. This allows visitors who meet the medical requirements in their home state to purchase medical marijuana during their stay in Maine. Patients from states with less developed programs, especially nearby New York and New Hampshire, can take advantage of Maine’s less expensive and more expansive medical market.

While there has been recent progress in the push of recreational sales with the state issuing numerous licenses to Portland-based companies, there has been an equal amount of setbacks. Most prominently the state’s decision to remove the residency requirement for licenses has many fearing the market will be overtaken by corporate-funded, out-of-state entities who place profits as paramount. While this issue rages on both in the courts and in the streets, with protestors advocating for local cannabis legislature this past week, there is some comfort in knowing that the medical program will remain strong and independent of some of the core issues which will continue to plague the recreational markets for the foreseeable future.


Maine Potcast Contributor

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