There are mixed opinions when it comes to the use of cannabis in adolescents. Some say it impairs cognitive development, others say there is virtually no difference in a teenage cannabis user’s brain when compared to a non-user. Research has supported both opinions.

Regardless of different stances, one thing we know for certain is that medicinal cannabis usage has shown profound effects for adolescents battling debilitating conditions. Cannabis use in children with epilepsy, for example, has been widely studied and generally affirmed as a safe and effective choice in treatment.

Children under the age of 18 cannot get a medical cannabis card on their own. The good news is, if your child is suffering from a condition that you and a state-certified physician believe can be helped with medicinal cannabis use, your minor children can obtain a medical card with help from you.

Here are some basic steps to getting a medical cannabis card for your child. Remember, all state’s laws are different, so view this as a general guide as you actively learn your state’s laws, too. Some states have a list of qualifying conditions they accept medical cannabis patients for, while others leave it up to the doctor’s discretion. Additionally, not every state has medical cannabis available. Be sure your state is one of the states allowing cannabis for medicinal use before proceeding.

1. Find the Right Doctor and Get a Recommendation 

Not every doctor agrees with medicinal cannabis, especially in children. Fortunately, more and more doctors are getting on board with the proven research behind cannabis. It is easy to locate a doctor that advocates for medical cannabis use in states where it is legal. You can find a doctor here. Some states, like Illinois, for example, require two physician recommendations in order for a minor to have a medical cannabis card.

When you speak to the doctor, make sure to present your facts in a clear and informed way. Provide as much research as you can supporting medicinal cannabis use for your child’s medical condition. If the doctor you are seeing is not your child’s primary care doctor, you will need to bring medical records proving their condition. There is usually a fee associated with obtaining a doctor’s recommendation and the amount varies depending on the doctor.

2. Apply to Become a Caregiver For Your Child

Children under the age of 18 must have a caregiver to obtain their medicine for them. Specific laws vary, but usually, someone must be over the age of 18 to be a caregiver. Some states, however, do require the caregiver to be at least 21 years old. Some states allow more than one caregiver per patient, and some only allow one.

In order to become a caregiver, you must apply through your state’s health department. Applications can usually be completed online. Specific questions and information required by the application vary based on the state. However, all caregivers must undergo a criminal background check. It is required that the minor patient have a physician certified recommendation before proceeding with a caregiver application.

In addition to caregivers having the authority to pick up a patients’ medicine from a dispensary, they can also grow medicine for their child. Specific laws regarding how many plants, where you can grow, etc. also vary depending on the state’s laws.

3. Apply for Your Child’s Medical Card

It is a common misconception that once your doctor has recommended medical cannabis, you automatically have a medical cannabis card and can purchase medicine. Having your doctor’s recommendation is the first important step, but patients must also apply and be approved for the card through their state’s health department before they are considered a legal patient. A doctor’s recommendation is just that, a recommendation. The state has the final authority on who receives medical cards. Though if everything checks out with the potential patient, they are usually able to receive a medical card without much hassle.

The application will require the caregivers’ information to ensure the minor patient has someone legally able to obtain their medicine. So be sure you have been accepted as a caregiver for your child before applying for their card. There is also a varying-by-state fee to apply for a medical patient card. Some states also require that you detail the intended dispensary the patient plans to use on their application, so do your research to find local dispensaries around you. You want to be sure the dispensary is knowledgeable on the topic of adolescent cannabis use and undergoes strict testing on each product they carry. You can find a medical marijuana dispensary here:

Employees of the dispensary should also be knowledgeable enough to recommend products and strains to you based on your child’s condition and medical history. Don’t be afraid to shop around different dispensaries and ask important questions to the staff.

Choosing to pursue medical cannabis as a treatment for your child is not an easy choice. Combined with the tedious process to apply, fees, and not to mention the general stigma associated with cannabis, parents have a lot to think about. Being well-informed on your state’s laws and regulations will help ease any concerns you may have.