In the spring of 2020, as the Covid-19 pandemic swept across the US, a wide range of Emergency Orders were put in place in response. While the orders which got the most attention were those which required businesses to close and people to stay at home, most of these Emergency Orders included another important provision: telemedicine.
Telemedicine appointments are virtual meetings with qualified physicians using a cellphone, tablet, or computer. While some states already allowed for these digital doctor appointments before 2020, many didn’t. Importantly for the medical cannabis industry, these Emergency Orders allowed medical cannabis certificates to be provided via a telemedicine appointment.
Telemedicine appointments are quick, convenient, and often cheaper than meeting a physician in person. They are also far more accessible: all you need is a device that is connected to the internet. For patients in rural, inaccessible communities, telemedicine can be quite literally a lifeline. In recent weeks, however, these Emergency Orders have started to expire, cutting off access to virtual doctors and forcing the medical cannabis industry back several steps.
Telemedicine Appointments are Ideal for Medical Cannabis Patients
While there will always be a place for in-person physician appointments, medical cannabis consultations are ideal for telemedicine. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, many patients opt not to go to their primary care physician for their medical cannabis certificate because of the continued stigma attached to this alternative medicine. Telemedicine means that even if your PCP is against cannabis, and there are no other medical cannabis physicians in your local area, you can still access the service you need.
Secondly, many medical cannabis patients suffer from chronic conditions. In fact, a survey of 15,000 patients by Leafwell, a leading telemedicine platform, found that 43.6% of these patients suffered from chronic pain. Therefore, being able to attend an appointment at home means these patients did not have to deal with traveling to meet with a physician while in pain. In addition to chronic pain, 40.6% of patients in the same survey suffered from anxiety. Again, telemedicine appointments in one’s own home are more relaxed, less stressful, and more comfortable for those who suffer from anxiety.
Campaigning to Maintain Telemedicine Access
With every Emergency Order which expires, as the pandemic continues to be curbed, access to telemedicine is lost. Whether this is telemedicine to meet with a medical cannabis doctor or any other healthcare professional, this is a step backward we should not be taking.
While it was the pandemic that forced many states to accept telemedicine in the first place, patients and physicians alike have grown to recognize its value. So why are states turning back the clock? The past year has proven the value of telemedicine and yet state by state, this access is being stopped. Already Arkansas has ended its telemedicine laws and Pennsylvania’s appear to be hanging in the balance.
Telemedicine opened up medical cannabis to a wider audience and we’ve seen a growing acceptance of this incredible plant’s power over the past 12 months. To see all this progress undone would be devastating for the marijuana reform cause. If you want to show your support for telemedicine, you can sign Leafwell’s petition to save Pennsylvania’s telemedicine laws and subscribe to their blog to keep an eye out for future campaigns to maintain telemedicine access for medical cannabis patients.