New to medical marijuana? Curious? Here’s what experts say you should know.

Author: James M | | Categories: Cannabis

Getting medical marijuana has never been easier in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Telemedicine, online ordering, and home delivery — innovations spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic — have streamlined the process and encouraged more people than ever to explore whether cannabis might be a good health choice for them.

But patients new to the program face a bewildering array of cannabis products when they make their first foray into state-approved marijuana retailers, which in Pennsylvania are called dispensaries.

“Back in the day you got whatever your dealer had, and it was always “this is really good s—,” said one patient from West Chester, who started using cannabis to treat his depression in the 1970s. “Now there’s dozens — if not hundreds — of products and varieties.”

So how does a newbie decide which product — let alone how much of it — will be right for them?

Under state law, Pennsylvanians can obtain a doctor’s recommendation for marijuana if they have any one of 23 “serious qualifying conditions.” Those ailments range from chronic pain to anxiety, terminal illness to post-traumatic stress disorder.

Among the largest demographic venturing into the program are the elderly, who are using marijuana to treat chronic pain, anxiety, glaucoma, cancer, and other terminal illnesses.

They need guidance. Many are completely naive to the substance, having ignored the cannabis counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s.

“I see tons of geriatric patients who want to know how to make the first step,” said physician Sue Sisley, a cannabis researcher based in Arizona who consults as a medical director for several Pennsylvania medical marijuana companies including Whole Plants and Penn Health Group.

“Reliable information can be harder to obtain than the medicine itself,” Sisley said. “That’s because the federal government has impeded clinical research that would help us understand which strains, products, and dosages are best for which illnesses.”

But she notes that Canada and Israel are working with others in the U.S. to put the building blocks in place.

“Patients have to go on their own personal odyssey,” she said. “Everyone’s body chemistry is different, so it’s important for every patient to experiment until they find the right fit. No one fits a cookie-cutter algorithm.”


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