With more than 30 states and multiple U.S. territories offering legal medical marijuana, more people are turning to cannabis to treat what ails them.

Medical marijuana patients need to have a medical marijuana card. This card from a doctor is similar to a prescription, and allows the patient to purchase medical cannabis products.

Brooke McLaughlin is Northern Regional Sales Manager for Cannabis Cured. She manages multiple recreational and medical cannabis stores in Maine, including the two Cannabis Cured stores in Thomaston.

McLaughlin said the first step for anyone interested in medical marijuana is to speak with their primary care provider (PCP) if they have one.

“If you do get it through your doctor, it’s usually free,” McLaughlin said.

If your PCP does not offer medical marijuana cards, multiple other options can be found through a search engine.

Some physicians are available through virtual appointments or telehealth, which have become increasingly popular during the COVID-19 pandemic.

McLaughlin said the medical shops she manages see many patients who use websites, such as cheapmedcards.com. McLaughlin said most patients can use this website to apply online, have a video chat with a doctor and then will be approved for a medical card in about ten minutes.

Once the doctor has approved the medical card, the patient receives an electronic copy of it right away.

McLaughlin said some patients view this as a downside, since medical dispensaries require the physical copy of the card to make a purchase.  McLaughlin said the medical card should arrive in the mail in less than a week.

A medical marijuana card in Maine is good for one year, and then must be renewed. While the yearly fee used to be $200, McLaughlin said the price has since decreased significantly. Now patients can receive their medical card for closer to $50.

The cost of the medical card is also offset by the savings offered through a dispensary. The prices in a medical store are much lower compared to a recreational store, McLaughlin said. As an example, McLaughlin said the recreational Cannabis Cured shops sell a pre-rolled marijuana cigarette for $12. The same product at the dispensary costs $5.

“Most people have an ailment that can be treated with cannabis,” McLaughlin said. Depression and anxiety are at the top of the list, as well as insomnia. Many patients use medical marijuana as an alternative to prescription sleep aids, and to help treat post traumatic stress disorder.

Cannabis can also be used to treat physical ailments, such as pain and inflammation. It is often used to control nausea and increase hunger for cancer patients, and help relax tight muscles for patients with multiple sclerosis.

Medical cannabis can also be used to treat some seizure disorders and physical Tourette syndrome symptoms.

Medical marijuana products can also differ from recreational products. In a recreational cannabis shop, most of the products are designed to create an intoxicating effect.

Medical cannabis products offer some other options. These include salves and balms that can be applied directly to the skin for pain management.