Patients with a wide range of debilitating diseases rely on medical marijuana. But their age and/or condition may make it hard to buy or administer cannabis themselves. These patients rely on legally recognized medical cannabis caregivers to get them the treatments they need.
But while caregivers are providing support to medical marijuana patients—an often-difficult job about which very little guidance is available—where can they find support for themselves? We’ve put together some helpful resources and advice for cannabis caregivers.
Challenges Facing Cannabis Caregivers
Generally speaking, being a caregiver can be a thankless and difficult job. It’s something that few understand unless they’ve experienced the role firsthand. But for medical marijuana caregivers specifically, it’s compounded by a few factors.
First, medical marijuana is still widely misunderstood. Despite the fact that the majority of states have some sort of medical marijuana law, a stigma persists around cannabis that can make people feel uncomfortable accepting it as a form of medicine.
This can be especially true for parents with children who are medical marijuana patients. Because of the societal stereotypes that persist, some caregivers may not feel like they can talk freely about what they do on a day-to-day basis.
And unlike caregivers who follow a doctor’s prescribed treatment plan, medical marijuana caregivers don’t always have the same level of guidance. Even doctors who are onboard about cannabis’s medical properties may not have the training or expertise to build an effective treatment plan for a patient.
In one study by the Journal of Clinical Oncology, 400 practicing oncologists were surveyed. In the survey, 80% reported discussing medical marijuana with a patient, but only 30% said they felt knowledgeable enough about cannabis to make recommendations. This lack of guidance can make the hard job of a medical cannabis caregiver even more challenging.
Helpful Tips & Resources for Cannabis Caregivers
Here are three resources medical marijuana caregivers can turn to when they need advice about everything from legal issues to making sure they take care of their own mental health.
- Explore organizations that focus on medical marijuana patients and caregivers. The fight for access to medical marijuana is nothing new, and there are many organizations that are stalwarts in that fight. Medical marijuana caregivers can look to these groups for support. Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is one of those organizations; its website is full of great resources for cannabis caregivers, especially parents of young medical marijuana patients.
ASA has guides for becoming a caregiver in each medical marijuana state that will walk you through each step. They provide a comprehensive patient/caregiver legal checklist that explains the legal complexities of being a medical marijuana patient or caregiver and how you can prepare yourself for any potential legal issues in the future.
- Find or start a support group near you. Caregivers need care, too. If you’re feeling lonely in your journey of caring for others, finding a community of people who can empathize with your experience could really make a difference to your mental well-being. All over the country, there are support groups for caregivers and medical marijuana patients that are in the same boat as you.
NORML (National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws) is a national organization with chapters in just about every city and every state. Find your local NORML chapter and explore what it has to offer. Most run patient and caregiver support groups as well as other events that can provide useful information and a supportive community.
If you can’t find a group through NORML, you can also use Meetup.com, which has plenty of medical marijuana meet-ups listed all over the country.
And if all else fails, you can always start your own caregiver support group. Chances are there are at least a handful of people in your community going on the same journey and need support just as much as you do.
- Get support when you need it with online communities. If finding and attending an in-person support group isn’t possible or feels too intimidating, you can always turn to online communities instead.
HelloMD has a robust community of medical marijuana patients and caregivers that can be a great source of camaraderie and information. Post your questions or thoughts in the HelloMD Q&A section and peruse discussions by other patients and caregivers. You may find that questions you’ve wanted to ask are already answered. And if not, you can ask your question (anonymously if you’d like) and a knowledgeable medical professional or expert member of the community will be happy to answer.
Photo credit: Seth Hayes
If you’re new to cannabis and want to learn more, take a look at our Cannabis 101 index of articles. HelloMD can help you get your medical marijuana recommendation; it’s easy, private and 100% online.