There has been little research in the U.S. on medical applications for marijuana since it was classified as — and remains — a Schedule I controlled substance by the federal government. (Joe Amon, Denver Post file)

Cannabist Q&A: Mental health, medical cards, growing

Welcome to our Ask The Cannabist column. Clearly you have questions about marijuana, be it a legal concern, a health curiosity, a Colorado-centric inquiry or something more far-reaching. Check out our expansive, 64-question Colorado marijuana FAQ first, and if you’re still curious, email your question to Ask The Cannabist at

Hey, Cannabist!
I am a psychotherapist, and a number of my clients self-medicate, for depression, bipolar disorder, etc. I know certain strains would work better than others, and would like to consult with an expert in the medical marijuana field. I would appreciate any recommendations you might have. –B. Skinner

Hey, Skinner!
Your question is not so simple and leads to more questions. Who are the medical marijuana experts? What are their credentials? How do they back up their claims?

Awareness and use of medical marijuana has emerged outside our normal medical authority, so doctors are not informed. Medical researchers in the U.S. have a lot of catching up to do with studying medical applications for marijuana. Due to the Federal Schedule defining marijuana as a controlled substance with no medical use, over the years almost all petitions to study marijuana for medical benefits have been denied by the Drug Enforcement Administration. Recently, a study at the University of Arizona was approved by the Department of Health and Human Services, signaling a possible shift in policy or a reminder that administrative lightning can strike twice. (The study will test marijuana as a treatment option for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.)

Colorado doctors who write annual medical marijuana recommendations usually see patients only once a year. According to Martha Montemayor, general manager of Healthy Choices Unlimited, a medical marijuana evaluation clinic, it’s a challenge to collect effective treatment data from patients only seen annually. In the four years of operation, Montemayor’s clinic has developed guidelines for dosing methods and time frames, cannabinoid choices for symptom management and a treatment tracker chart for their patients.

Marijuana center owners and budtenders are not required to be trained medical professionals. The level of care and awareness varies by center and employee. At the sales counter, product and strain claims can sometimes sound pretty inflated and unsubstantiated. Skeptical patients have a hard time finding accuracy and consistency, even though the medical benefits of marijuana are real. Healthy Choices Unlimited works with medical marijuana centers and infused-product manufacturers directly to help patients find an effective dose.

Another challenge in answering your question is there are no mental illnesses listed as conditions for which medical marijuana can be recommended in Colorado. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which oversees the medical marijuana program, hears petitions to approve new ailments to the list. Since the state registry opened, all petitions have been denied. PTSD, severe anxiety and clinical depression, bipolar and Tourette’s Syndrome are among the denied conditions.

There is some hope for finding legitimate clinical medical marijuana research and connecting with the growing community of educated medical professionals. Healthy Choices Unlimited is organizing an accredited Continuing Medical Education conference for Colorado healthcare providers interested in cannabis medicine, scheduled for this fall. XO

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Hey, Cannabist!
I am a former Colorado resident who left for college. I went to Oregon and got a medical card here and want to know if Colorado dispensaries would honor my Oregon medical card when I come home for Spring Break. I wasn’t sure if there was any cooperation between states but thought it was worth checking here before I just walked into a dispensary at home and got kicked out. Thanks for your help! –Holistic Student

Hey, Holi!
You are asking about reciprocity for medical marijuana cards. States with a reciprocity clause in their medical marijuana laws can legally recognize a card issued from another state. Colorado is not a reciprocity state, so your Oregon medical card would not be valid. But according to Marijuana Policy Project, you can use your Oregon card in Arizona, Delaware, Michigan, Maine, Rhode Island and starting in April, Nevada. Spring Break Michigan! XO

Map: Colorado medical dispensaries and recreational marijuana centers

Hey, Cannabist!
I want to grow marijuana, how do I get started? I have 180 acres in Colorado. –Max

Hey, Max!
Are you going to grow cannabis on the farm after you have a Woodstock revival, or before? Haha, don’t forget to invite me! To legally grow marijuana, you need to know the applicable local and state laws and regulations. Marijuana attorney Lauren Davis recommends learning your local ordinances first. Check to see if the municipality or county where the land is located has adopted an ordinance allowing the cultivation of marijuana for commercial purposes, either medical or recreational.

If commercial cultivation is allowed locally, determine the license requirements you need to meet. Also essential is meeting the state requirements from the Marijuana Enforcement Division, Davis says. State requirements includes a thorough background check. After obtaining a license from the local authorities and approval from MED, then you can grow. It’s a good idea to find a lawyer who specializes in marijuana law to navigate the complicated rules and requirements with you.

I’m assuming you don’t need farming advice, but if you do, write back. One more thing, if you do put together a Woodstock revival on your farm, make sure Santana plays. Hearing “Soul Sacrifice” live is high on my list of incredible life experiences! XO