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How to Legally Obtain Medical Marijuana

Pot is approved for medical use in more than a dozen states. Here's how to get it.


  • Step 1: Check your state law See if medical marijuana is legal where you live. The group Marijuana Policy Project maintains an up-to-date, state-by-state guide to these laws.
  • Step 2: Research its uses Determine if medical marijuana might help you. Glaucoma, diabetes, high blood pressure, and multiple sclerosis are a few of the conditions for which doctors have recommended medical marijuana. It's also prescribed to help quell nausea and stimulate the appetites of people undergoing chemotherapy or various AIDS treatments.
  • Step 3: Weigh the risks Weigh the health risks. Like tobacco cigarettes, joints contain tar and other chemicals linked to cancer risk, and their smoke can raise the risk of respiratory illnesses. Research is pending on whether using a bong reduces tar intake.
  • TIP: Ask your doctor about using a cannabis vaporizer. A study has shown it may minimize the respiratory dangers of pot smoking.
  • Step 4: Talk to your doctor If you decide medical marijuana might be right for you, ask your doctor for a letter of recommendation. Different states dictate the conditions for which a physician may approve medical marijuana.
  • Step 5: Apply to the state Apply to your state's Department of Health for permission to use medical marijuana, if that is required where you reside. Contact them for the appropriate application.
  • Step 6: Get or grow your pot If you're approved for medical marijuana, how you get it depends on where you live. Some states allow you to grow a limited number of pot plants yourself or have someone grow them for you; others refer you to special dispensaries to purchase your pot. It is illegal to carry medical marijuana across state lines.
  • TIP: Health insurance does not currently cover medical marijuana.
  • Step 7: Ask about Marinol If you're not comfortable smoking pot, or medical marijuana is not legal where you live, ask your doctor about Marinol, an FDA-approved pill, which contains a synthetic form of the therapeutic chemicals in pot. Legal in all 50 states, it is often covered by insurance.
  • FACT: One hundred million Americans have smoked pot, and about 14 million use it regularly, according to federal government studies.

You Will Need

  • Residency in a state where it's legal
  • A doctor's note
  • Approval from the Health Department in some states
  • A dispensary or your own marijuana plants
  • Marinol (optional)

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