As a long-time Virginia resident, I’d developed a halfway decent method of procuring somewhat legal marijuana: My sister lives in Western Massachusetts, and she has three recreational dispensaries within 20 minutes of her house. One even has ample parking! I enjoy visiting sis & her family once or twice a year, and I also enjoy stocking up while I’m there. It’s a heck of a drive from NoVA, but this approach proved workable — until the pandemic.
All of a sudden, driving up to MA was not on the table. As I watched my stockpile dwindle over time, I realized implementation of Plan B loomed on the horizon. Sadly, I had no Plan B. There was little appeal to the VA medical dispensary stock, as it is currently limited to oil cartridges, tinctures, and edibles. I’m a classic flower kind of guy — not to mention that the nearest dispensary is about 40 minutes from my house.
Then, early in 2021, I got to talking to the Gentleman (my guru for all things cannabis). He pointed out that DC medical dispensaries offer reciprocity for properly credentialed out-of-state patients, including Virginia. To make matters even more interesting, he suggested I go about getting certified and write up my experiences for this website. Well, why the heck not?
Step 1: Get Your Certification
If you already have a Virginia-licensed practitioner (an MD, osteopath, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner) who’s:
- registered with the Virginia Board of Pharmacy
- will vouch that you have a condition that’ll benefit from treatment with cannabis
- won’t bankrupt you with their fee
- You’re golden! Call ’em up, ask them to complete and sign the appropriate form, then shoot you a copy.
(Ed: Virginia does not have a qualifying conditions requirement! It's between you and your doctor to determine if cannabis therapy is right for you, as it should be.)
Finding a Doctor
Unfortunately for me, the doc who looks after my qualifying condition, though a fine fellow and a distinguished physician, looks askance at the use of marijuana as a bona fide treatment regimen. I'd have to look farther afield! Some light Googling soon led me to Virginia Marijuana Card — these lovely folks will connect you with a suitably qualified Virginia physician. You can set up a telemedicine evaluation through their website (all the rage during this plague).
Once you’ve paid the fee, completed an online history form, and given them permission to access your medical records, you’ll have an online chat with your new doctor. They'll ask you questions about your medical history, the condition for which you’re seeking treatment, and your prior experience with cannabis. If all goes well (it almost certainly will), you’ll have your duly completed certification form a day or two after your evaluation.
“Fee?” you ask. Well, yes, because capitalism. We can't have people going 'round getting healthcare for free, then they wouldn't have to compete for the jobs we're all about to lose to AI-guided robots! Right, so, I paid Virginia Marijuana Card a total of $225. They do offer a discount if you’re on Social Security disability or receive “regular” Social Security benefits (meaning you’re old). You can call & confirm what you’re going to pay before you proceed. VMC can be reached at (888) 633-5808 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I found the people at Virginia Marijuana Card to be uniformly friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful. Here's a couple of tips!
Be sure to fill out your history form, including giving your permission to access your medical records, well before your telemedicine eval. If you don’t have your history form completed before your evaluation, it’s going to get postponed. You should probably complete your history right away, if and when you decide to go this route and pay your fee. It won’t take long.
Raison D' Cannabis
Before you have your session with the doc, devote some thought to what you want to say about your condition and how you think treatment with cannabis will help you out.
Step 2: Register with Virginia Board of Pharmacy
The part where you have to register with the Virginia Board of Pharmacy sounds worse than it actually is. You just go here, set up an account, and fill out the online license application. Oh yeah, and pay another $50 on top of what you already spent getting your certification form. Once you’ve done that, email a copy of your practitioner-signed certification along with proof of your identity, age, and Virginia residency. You can snail-mail it if you prefer, but, like...why?
PRO TIP: A scan or photocopy of your Virginia driver’s license will take care of all those proof requirements in one shot!
One point to keep in mind when you’re filling out your Virginia license application: If you’re an adult and you’re applying for a license for yourself, you need to select “Registered Patient for the use of Cannabis Oil” as your desired license type. If you’re applying on behalf of a minor or a disabled adult, you’ll need to select “Registered Parent/Guardian for the use of Cannabis Oil.” Once you’ve selected the correct license type, everything should proceed smoothly.
Hurry Up and Wait
The only major downside to this whole process (besides the money) is that it takes a while. In my case, the first available appointment with Virginia Marijuana Card was three weeks out, but I got my completed certificate the same day as my evaluation. Once I had my doctor's certificate, filled out my Virginia application, and paid the fee, I thought I’d get my card right away.
Much to my chagrin, the day after I applied I received an email from the Virginia Board of Pharmacy. It read: “The Board is currently receiving a high volume of applications. All efforts will be made to process applications within 30 business days of receipts. To avoid unnecessary delays in processing, please ensure all required information has been properly submitted.” Wa-waaa.
So there you go. This means I can expect my card some time in March. Just be patient, dot all your i’s, cross your t’s, and good things will come your way.
by Z. Liebermann