Article written by
Tina MagrabiSenior Content Writer
Content reviewed by
Dr. Lewis JasseyMedical Director - Pediatric Medicine
Table of contents
Being a caregiver for a loved one can be hard enough without having to worry about the confusing and often conflicting laws and rules surrounding medical cannabis laws in your state. Depending on where you live, your duties as a caregiver could range from helping grow and harvest plants in a makeshift grow house for a patient that’s too sick to do it themselves to just buying and dosing products from someone under the legal age in that particular state.
When you throw in needing to figure out and memorize all of the complicated rules, laws, regulations, and state-by-state quirks that come along with navigating the medical cannabis system, being a good caregiver can seem like an impossible task.
Thankfully, we here at Leafwell are medical cannabis experts. We know those complicated state-by-state rules, laws, and regulations and are here to break them down for you as simple and accessible as possible so you can focus on what’s important, providing the best possible care to the patient who needs it.
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How to Get a Caregiver Card
While it might be easier to get a medical cannabis card of your own than it’s ever been before thanks to expanded telehealth services and services like Leafwell that directly connect patients with licensed cannabis doctors quickly and easily, the process of getting a caregiver card of your own can still be a bit confusing.
Since cannabis is still federally illegal, there’s no nationwide legal framework of rules and regulations when it comes to either medical or recreational programs. That means that each state has slightly different rules surrounding who and how to get a caregiver card.
For example, states like Delaware and Pennsylvania require caregivers to be 21 or over, while states like New Jersey allow for caregivers 18 and older. While rules might vary state-by-state, here are some general rules of thumb to follow when trying to figure out if you qualify as a caregiver:
- Be 21 or older (18 in some states)
- Are a U.S. citizen
- Are a resident of the state you’re getting the card in
For even more information on some of the more intricate details about being a caregiver, and for those looking specifically for information on how to provide care or get a card for a child medical patient, Leafwell has your back as always!
What You Can Do With a Caregiver Card
So let’s say you qualify for and get a medical caregiver card of your own. What comes next? What exactly can you do with it? This next section is going to break down in detail all of the things you’ll be able to do once you get a card of your own.
Be a Patient and a Caregiver
While this might surprise many, some states only allow caregivers who are medical patients themselves. On the surface, that decision makes a lot of sense. After all, nobody would know more about the needs of a medical patient and the ins and outs of the way the program works than another patient, right?
So if you’re considering becoming a caregiver for someone else, at least you don’t have to worry about losing your own card or patient status. You can likely do both. Just make sure to check your state’s laws on the matter before doing anything to move forwards as a caregiver.
One of the biggest current hurdles that medical patients continue to fight is the battle for consistent legal access to their medicine. As we’ve covered here at Leafwell before, one of the best ways to ensure that a patient has reliable and consistent access to their medicine is to make it legal to grow their own at home.
Some states, like Washington and Illinois, only allow home growing for card-holding medical patients while other states, like New Jersey, have recreational programs but don’t allow anyone to grow their own plants. A handful of states only allow patients to homegrow if they don’t have easy and consistent access to a dispensary in their state. One state, Virginia, currently only allows home growing while they establish the legal framework for their recreational program set to start in 2024.
For states that do allow home growing, however, there’s a lot of rules, regulations, and limits to keep in mind. Most states limit the number of plants you can grow at one time. Many states dictate that plants must be grown indoors, out of view from the public, or in specifically designed enclosures.
While this one might not seem like a big deal on the surface, that caregiver card could be the difference between making a safe and secure delivery to the patient you’re caring for and a few decades behind bars.
Due to the outdated and racist Reefer Madness-era rules around cannabis in the U.S., the only way you won’t get in serious legal trouble for traveling with or having cannabis on you is if you have a patient or caregiver card of your own.
The card also only permits you as a caregiver to bring the cannabis products to the patient’s legal home address, meaning that taking the medication to a third-party location would spell trouble if you had to explain to law enforcement.
Dosing/Administering Medical Cannabis
Just like every other entry on this list, there are many different rules when it comes to who and how a patient’s medicine can be administered. In some states, for example, caregivers can only administer certain types of medication. In some states, vapes are fair game. In others, caregivers can only provide tinctures, transdermal creams, or capsules.
As always, it just depends on the state and its particular rules.
What You Can’t Do With a Medical Cannabis Caregivers Card
While you can do a whole bunch of stuff as a caregiver, there are still some things that are off-limits. Here are some of the things that getting a caregiver card of your own won’t allow you to do.
Act as a Caregiver for More Than One MMJ Patient
While being a caregiver is a fulfilling and worthwhile experience, in most states you’ll only be able to act in that capacity for one person at a time. That means that you won’t be able to buy, transport, administer, or grow cannabis for anybody else. Although it is allowed in some states, for the vast majority of people out there it’s a one-and-done type deal.
Transport Outside of Designated Areas
Just like with everything else on this list, there are some restrictions and rules you’ll need to follow when it comes to transporting cannabis.
For example, there’s no scenario where you should travel over state lines with any type of medical cannabis. If you’re a patient in New Jersey, for example, you won’t be able to travel over state lines, buy products or medicine in New York, and then travel back into your home state without consequences if you’re caught.
It’s important to note that there might be areas of legal states where medical cannabis isn’t permitted. Even California, one of the most mature and well-developed states when it comes to all forms of legal weed, has countries and areas of the state where patients can’t access their medicine legally. Always make sure to check and see the rules in your particular state and locality.
Use the Medical Cannabis
When it comes to getting high on someone else’s supply, that’s a massive no-no for medical patient caregivers. It’s forbidden for you as a caregiver to use the products you buy for someone else. If a caregiver is a patient themselves, it’s also against most state laws to buy products for yourself with the card of the patient you’re caring for. Personal needs will need to be a separate purchase with your own medical card.
Always Check Your State’s Medical Marijuana Caregiver Rules
Just like with any decision as important as being a caregiver, you’ll need to make sure that this is the right thing for you personally. Being a caregiver is a lot of responsibility, and learning all of the new rules, laws, and regulations for your state has to be a challenge you have time to take on. Doing things correctly when it comes to medical cannabis is incredibly important, not only for you but for the patient they’re caring for.
Make sure to do your research on local rules, laws, and regulations as the first step to figuring out if stepping up as a caregiver is right for you! If you have a question about the process of becoming a caregiver, ask the Leafwell team today for support.
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