Going to see a doctor can be a complicated process. Getting medicine can be, too. Both can also be expensive. This is especially true when it comes to consulting with a doctor about the use of cannabis and figuring out where cannabis products are available.
And while it’s not uncommon for low-income patients to need medical assistance, it can be even harder when that medication is cannabis.
The barriers are many — applying and paying for an annual medical card, the often prohibitive price of the medicine itself, and the fact that marijuana is almost exclusively handled on a cash basis and isn’t covered by insurance. Seeing this need, there are a growing number of programs meant to help low-income patients bridge both the financial and informational gaps that prevent them from accessing medical cannabis.
“I don’t think your healthcare should be dependent on your ZIP code or your financial well-being,” said Garyn Angel, the founder of Cheers to Goodness Foundation. “But around the world those are the two determining factors. If we can cause a positive impact on that, it’s our duty as humans.”
Here are some of the programs across the U.S. available to low-income medical cannabis patients who need help accessing their medication. Besides these resources, some dispensaries offer discounts to low-income patients, so contact your local dispensary to see whether they have a need-based program and if so, how to sign up for it.
City of Berkeley
Where: The city of Berkeley, California
Help It Offers: A city ordinance helps residents living in the city to cover medical cannabis expenses. Patients making less than $32,000 per year or $46,000 for a family of four can access their medical cannabis for free from local medical dispensaries.
According to the ordinance, dispensaries must offer at least 2% by weight of their annual medical cannabis supplies to very-low-income customers for free. The cannabis has to be of the same quality as that sold to paying customers. Income is verified through federal tax returns.
While each dispensary has slightly different rules, typically, low-income patients need to fill out an application, provide documentation of Berkeley residency, and possess a California medical marijuana card. The Berkeley Patients Group, the U.S.’s oldest medical cannabis dispensary, offers an example of what to expect.
California Medical Marijuana Identification Card
Help It Offers: In order to access compassion programs in the state, California Medical Marijuana Identification Card (MMIC) is required. It typically costs about $100, but low-income patients who are eligible for Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program, can get their card for $50. Fees are waived for indigent patients who participate in the County Medical Services Program, a state health care program for uninsured low-income and indigent California residents, according to the California Department of Public Health‘s website. Patients must apply for the card through their home county health department.
Published: July 29, 2019
Founder & Interim Editor of L.A. Cannabis News