Frequently Asked Questions — Hugs
It is always best to consult with a doctor about taking any medication; MMJ is no different. Seeking out a doctor that is more familiar with the benefits of MMJ may help to more clearly understand if this treatment may help with your condition. While MMJ is not beneficial for everyone, it has improved the quality of life for many patients. MMJ is not a cure for any disease or illness. What it does, like most medicines, is increases comfort levels and helps to regulate a condition so that a patient can be more productive in their daily lives. MMJ can benefit a number of afflictions because of its ability to decrease certain kinds of pain, stimulate appetites, decrease spasms and seizures, and normalize dietary regimen.
What conditions can MMJ be helpful for?
Cancer and Chemotherapy Treatment – MMJ is most effective to combat the side effects of the treatments used to fight cancer. Most notably are its extremely effective in curbing nausea and increasing the appetite of patients experiencing the harsh side effects of chemotherapy and radiation. It also can reduce the pain associated with the disease.
HIV/AIDS – HIV/AIDS patients often experience wasting syndrome from the disease and the multitudes of medicines used to combat the disease. Cannabi s stimulates their appetite allowing them to eat more regularly and avoid the common traits associated with wasting syndrome, as well as helps ease the pains associated with the disease itself.
Pain Afflictions – Research shows that MMJ is a safe and effective treatment for a variety of pain related afflictions, including deep tissue pains, muscle and back pain, and neuropathic or shooting pains. MMJ does not have the dangerous side effects of other opiate-based painkillers and is not known to be toxic at any level of ingestion, making it a much safer medicine for pain.
Multiple Sclerosis – MMJ improves spactisity and improves tremors in MS patients. It helps control involuntary muscle contraction, balance, bladder cont rol, speech, and eyesight in these patients. MMJ helps with the immune system, which is thought to be the underlying pathogenic process in MS patients.
Gastrointestinal Disorders – MMJ has value as an anti-emetic and analgesic medication. It helps combat the symptoms brought on by disorders such as Crohn’s Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and Ulcerative Colitis. MMJ interacts with the endogenous cannabinoid receptors in the digestive tract, which can result in calming spasms, assuaging pain, and improving motility. MMJ has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and recent research has demonstrated that cannabinoids are immune system modulators, either enhancing or suppressing immune response.
Movement Disorders – MMJ is effective in treating muscular spasticity, a common condition, affecting millions of people. This condition afflicts individuals who have suffered strokes, as well as those with multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, paraplegia, quadriplegia, and spinal cord injuries. Conventional medical therapy offers little to address spasticity problems. Because cannabinoids have antispasticity, analgesic, antitremor, and antiataxia properties, MMJ is extremely effective in treating these disorders, and lacks the side effects and dangers of Vallium or other prescribed medicines.
Aging – MMJ has been found to help many patients suffering from conditions that afflict older patients, including arthritis, chronic pain, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and spasticity associated with such diseases as Parkinson’s.
Arthritis – There are two common types of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, but both affect the joints, causing pain and swelling, and limiting movement. The analgesic properties of MMJ make it useful in treating the pain associated with arthritis, both on its own and as an adjunct therapy that enhances the efficacy of opioid painkillers. MMJ has also been shown to have powerful immune-modulation and anti-inflammatory properties suggesting that it could play a role in treating arthritis, and not just in symptom management.
Is medical MMJ legal?
In 1996, California voters enacted the Compassionate Use Act (CUA), which made California the first state to legalize mj for medical use. Subsequently, in 2004, the California’s MMJ law was amended with SB 420, which added additional protections to the Compassionate Use Act. As a result of these companion policies, California has the most comprehensive MMJ law in the country. The CUA and SB 420 have been codified as Health and Safety Code 11362.5 – 11362.83 and provides the following protections and limitations.
Under California’s MMJ law, patients and primary caregivers are permitted to legally use, possess, transport, deliver, or cultivate mj for medical purposes. Additionally, SB 420 specifically protects collectives or cooperatives and allows primary caregivers to receive financial compensation for their services.
Is medical MMJ safe?
MMJ is one of the safest medicines on the planet. It is an herbal medicine that helps people find relief where other medicines may have failed them. MMJ is not a magical plant that can heal any condition; but if used properly it can provide extended relief for many symptoms and drastically increase one’s quality of life.
How do I become a patient?
Finding a Doctor: Under Cal. H & S 11362.7(a), “Attending physician” means an individual who possesses a license in good standing to practice medicine or osteopathy issued by the Medical Board of California and who has taken responsibility for an aspect of the medical care, treatment, diagnosis, counseling, or referral of a patient and who has conducted a medical examination of that patient before recording in the patient’s medical record the physician’s assessment of whether the patient has a serious medical condition and whether the medical use of mj is appropriate or helpful.
Although the state of California will not help patients find a doctor who is willing to recommend mj for medical use, there are several physicians who are considered to be medical MMJ specialists.
There are a number of physician clinics in California, which are available for medical MMJ consultations. Patients should already have a documented medical record of diagnosis and treatment or a physician referral. You can find a listing of some of these physicians at http://www.canorml.org.
However, patients should be aware that:
- your medical records should be brought with you to the appointment;
- it generally costs no more than $200 to see a medical MMJ specialist; and
- paying the money does not guarantee that you will get a recommendation.
Renewal Applications: A State issued identification card will be valid for a period of one year. Upon annual renewal of an identification card, the county health department or its designee will then verify all new information and may also verify any other information that has not changed. The county health department or the county’s designee then transmits its determination of approval or denial.
Patients should be aware of the expiration on their recommendation or physician statement in order to renew the document in a timely fashion.
Age Limits: If the person is less than 18 years of age, the county health department or its designee shall also contact the parent with legal authority to make medical decisions, legal guardian, or other person or entity with legal authority to make medical decisions, to verify the information.
Personal Records: Americans for Safe Access strongly urges all patients to keep copies of all paperwork they have related to their status as a MMJ patient as proof of legal status. This is meant to protect patients from possible future encounters with law enforcement agents.
How do I become a member of Hugs?
Patients wishing to be members of Hugs must submit their original doctors recommendation stating their need to use MMJ medicines and a valid state issued ID. All patients will need to be verified prior to having medicine delivered. We will make a copy of the documents for our records and give you back the originals. We will then attempt to verify that your recommendation is valid through contacting the issuing doctor for authorization. As soon as your recommendation is verified you will be given access to our menu and services and be eligible to begin receiving services. We MUST verify your recommendation before your membership can be active. This can be done in advance online, by mail, or in person with one of our service staff.
What is a collective?
California Health and Safety Code Section 11362.775 allows qualified patients and their primary caregivers to associate together collectively and cooperatively to grow medicine for the patient-members’ personal medical use. In its simplest form, a medical MMJ collective or cooperative is a member owned or operated organization where two or more patients and their caregivers, where applicable, grow medicine together. However, the large majority of medical MMJ patients cannot cultivate their medicine, alone or in an association, nor do they have a caregiver who can grow it for them.
A collective is the more typical type of patients’ association recognized under the guidelines. The term “collective” is not defined under state law, and can refer to any membership-based association, regardless of its formal organization. The Attorney General describes a medical MMJ collective as “an organization that merely facilitates the collaborative efforts of patient and caregiver members – including the allocation of costs and revenues.” Because the term collective does not imply a specific legal structure, the guidelines state that “as a practical matter [the collective] might have to organize as some form of business to carry out its activities.”
The definition of a collective in the guidelines leaves broad organizational latitude as to the legal entity that will carry out the activities of the patient and caregiver collective.
Hugs is organized as a Mutual Benefit Not for Profit Organization.
Do I have to volunteer or do work for the collective to be a member?
No. Not every member of a medical MMJ collective must participate in cultivation of the medicine. In fact, the nature of a collective or cooperative association is naturally one in which differing forms of participation are necessary and appropriate. In County of Butte v. Superior Court of Butte County (96 Cal.Rptr.3d 421), the court held that “the [State] legislature intended collective cultivation of MMJ would not require physical participation in the gardening process by all members of the collective, but rather would permit that some patients would be able to contribute financially, while others performed the labor and contributed the skills and ‘know-how.'” The Court of Appeal upheld the trial court ruling. In People v. Newcomb et al. (2009 WL 1589574), the court also found that “other than merely purchasing mj, not every member must contribute to some aspect of the collective or cooperative…”
Are you my primary caregiver?
No. We are a collective organization that you are a member of. A primary caregiver, as defined by State law is who has consistently assumed responsibility for the housing, health, or safety” of a qualified patient. While our services include many care giving services, we are not your primary caregiver as defined by law.
Can I cultivate or produce MMJ medicine for the collective?
Yes. We are always looking to expand our offerings. If you cultivate high quality medicine that you believe other patient members could benefit from please let a staffer know. All medicine must be produced in safe and sanitary conditions. For information on the expected “Best Practices” and standards visit:
What can I do to help the collective?
Often we will organize community efforts that our patients can be a part of. You can contribute time, energy and resources at ongoing projects of the collective. The most important thing you can do is follow our code of conduct and be a responsible and compassionate patient member. All contributions are equally important, from plant maintenance to administration, to financial contributions. Whatever you are doing to help is much appreciated and helps the organization to continue to grow into a more positive force on the community we serve, so thanks.
***Many thanks to Americans for Safe Access for much of this valuable information.