How to not get ripped off when getting certified for a medical marijuana card in PA
So you want to go get your medical marijuana card? Well, buyer beware! Out there in the wild west of PA’s medical marijuana program, you could get seriously overcharged. Dare I say there are reports of unscrupulous practitioners who are taking advantage of the system and costing patients hundreds to thousands of dollars. I’m saying it!!
The horror stories
Patient accounts of overcharging can be found in many of PA’s Medical Marijuana facebook groups where patients try to help each other navigate the program to get the best care at the best price. They share their experiences with others online. “I arrived for my doctor appt. last week and found out that it would cost me $150 every 3 months to see the doctor (plus $50 for each patient ID card I need to get from DOH). This totals $800 a year!”
“I got a call from my medical marijuana doctor saying I need an appointment this month. (Feb 2019.) My card is valid until October 2019. It cost $450 for my Dr and another $50 for my card. An appointment costs $100. Seems a bit much. Just wondering if this the norm. (Any Dr referrals welcome.)” “The cost was 200$ for one-year cert. He was decent enough to deal with but he didn’t seem too knowledgeable on cannabis. He also wanted me to take a piss test that looked for everything under the sun except cannabis. I didn’t end up taking it because the bill came out to thousands of dollars. He was supposed to find a cheaper lab but he never did.” “Went to a Dr at pain management in Pottsville, cost a total of $400 for Dr’s appointments til I got the ok for my card. 18 years with MS diagnosis! Horrible how they’re raking people over the coals charging CRAZY amounts of $$! And then paid another $50 to get my card.”
Aren’t there any rules or regulations?
Well kind of, there are guidelines written by the Pennsylvania Department of Health. But remember, the DOH is not in the business of telling physicians how to run their private businesses. They don’t dictate things like how much a physician charges for a visit or for how long that certification is valid. So physicians are allowed to charge whatever they want. And if they want to ask for a drug test they can do that too but it is not necessary. The full list of guidelines can be found here online www.health.pa.gov/topics/programs/Medical%20 Marijuana/Pages/Physicians.aspx’
This is how easy it can be
It usually takes a 15 to 20-minute consultation with a medical marijuana certifying physician. They will verify your diagnosis from the documents and medical records you bring. The going rate is between $100 and $200 and sometimes less. Everyone must pay $50 to the state to issue the card. Have a great day, See you next year. After that, you are free to go to any dispensary in PA and purchase medical marijuana. There are no follow up visits or blood work necessary. Period.
So how do you find one of these good doctors?
The PA DOH has a pdf list of all the doctors who registered to certify patients for medical marijuana. They are listed by county. Then it is a matter of doing the leg work.
Here’s what to do: Don’t go by what the website says. Call ahead. Ask lots of questions, like: —What is the cost of the visit? —Do I have to be an existing patient, or become one? —Is any of it covered by insurance? —How long is the certification good for? —Do you require any follow-up visits? —Do you require a drug test? —Are there any of the 21 conditions the doctor won’t certify you for? —Does the doctor give any restrictions or limitations on the form of medical marijuana I can purchase? —What is your recertification price?
Remember that the referring physician does not have to become your treating physician unless you choose it. Some doctors are asking for drug screens and follow up visits but that this is not necessary and you have the right to choose to go somewhere else for certification. Keep in mind that most doctors right now don’t know very much about cannabis or the endocannabinoid system, which is why dispensaries have trained medical professionals on staff, available for consultation to help you become more knowledgeable. Patients have reported a wide range of experiences. From quick and easy to feeling like they were being taken advantage of and made to jump through hoops. The Bottom line is the process should be simple and painless and you need to do your homework before going to an appointment. Good luck and happy medicating!