The Telehealth Genie is Out of the Bottle When it Comes to Medical Marijuana

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The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many changes to our daily lives. Some of these changes have perhaps hastened the inevitable, with high street shops giving way to their online counterparts. However, it’s not just retail that’s changing – it’s healthcare, too. 

Over the course of 2020, many states made it possible to qualify for medical marijuana online via telehealth. Some states, like California, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania already allowed for patients to qualify for their medical cannabis certificate online before COVID. Other states, like Florida, allowed for online certifications for renewals only – new patients couldn’t qualify online. Now, however, telemedicine is more widely available than ever before. 

Telehealth is Here to Stay 

Before 2020, many people were lukewarm towards the idea of telehealth. For many, seeing a doctor in-person feels right. This is understandable to some extent. Having a doctor physically seeing the patient and hearing about what ails them is what medicine is. The personal touch matters, especially when it comes to health. 

However, in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the personal touch hasn’t always been possible. In fact, it’s been a health risk. This meant that people needed another way to contact their physician, whether to discuss medical marijuana or other health topics. Telehealth, which 

was used by a (not insignificant) minority of people in the past, became the new normal, and could stay as such. In fact, according to Healthcare Finance, “Almost 88% of Americans want to continue using telehealth for nonurgent consultations after COVID-19 has passed.” 

Telehealth has the following benefits: 

  • It makes it easier for patients to access the care they need. 
  • Patients save time on travel and waiting in a room. 
  • Decreased healthcare costs – it’s often cheaper to speak to a doctor online. ● Patients from remote locations can speak to a doctor quickly. 
  • Patients may actually speak to their doctor more often if telehealth is made available, as it’s easier to book an appointment. 
  • For doctors, much lower overheads. 

These factors suggest that telehealth is here to stay, especially when it comes to follow-up appointments and non-urgent care. 

Some States Want to Try and Put the Genie Back in the Bottle

Not every state is enthusiastic about telehealth, at least when it comes to getting qualified for medical marijuana online. States like Arkansas, who bought in telehealth as an emergency measure, have now stopped allowing patients to qualify for medical cannabis online. The reasoning is quite simple: we are no longer in the same place we were last year, there’s a vaccine, and the spread of COVID has reduced. 

Yet, just as the internet has changed the look of the high street (and even money), it looks to do the same to healthcare providers. States like Arkansas may be able to reenact legislation preventing medical marijuana qualification via telehealth, but how long can a state hold back the progress of technology for? And will patients actually start to demand it at some point? At the moment, the answer looks to be “Yes”. 

Is it Better to Get Your Medical Cannabis Certificate Online? 

Cannabis enthusiasts have often embraced new technology, and it is arguable that medical cannabis users’ wish for a smokeless way to ingest cannabis lead to today’s preference for vaporizing. In fact, vaporizing cannabis is now more common than cigarette smoking, and many have opted for cannabis over alcohol during the pandemic as a way to help relieve the stress and anxiety of being indoors all day. 

There are several reasons why medical cannabis patients would be more willing to use an online service, including: 

  • Not wanting to go to their family physician, or be known in their community as a medical cannabis patient. 
  • The ability to speak to a sympathetic doctor who understands the concept and science behind medical marijuana, as not every doctor is supportive of the idea
  • Speaking to a doctor at a time of their own choosing, without needing to travel long distances and waiting in a reception surrounded by sick (and potentially infectious) people, is a huge advantage for pretty much every patient. 
  • Online consultations are usually a lot cheaper than their in-person counterparts. Although there are some advantages to in-person consultations (especially when it comes to medical examinations), these advantages don’t always apply. Plus, as medical evidence can quite easily be sent online via email (or even during the appointment), there isn’t necessarily always the need for an in-person meeting. 
  • It can make it easier for a physician to speak to a patient who is geographically remote or vulnerable and cannot easily make it to a doctor’s office. 

As telehealth technology improves, it is likely that the advantages of in-person meets will be reduced to a negligibility.

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Dipak Hemraj is a published author, grower, product maker, and Leafwell’s resident cannabis expert. From botany & horticulture to culture & economics, he wishes to help educate the public on why cannabis is medicine (or a “pharmacy in a plant”) and how it can be used to treat a plethora of health problems. Dipak wants to unlock the power of the plant, and see if there are specific cannabinoid-terpene-flavonoid profiles suitable for different conditions.