Gwynne Ann Unruh is an award-winning reporter formerly of the Alamosa Valley Courier, an independent paper in southern Colorado. She covers the environment for The Paper.

Cannabis telemedicine is catching on. In today’s day and age, it’s become important to implement new protocols to help keep both doctors and patients safe from unneeded risks.

Many medical clinics around the state are now offering telemedicine appointments to existing medical cannabis patients. Telemedicine appointments for new patients looking to apply for the first time are also offered. Though the use of modern technology (computers, video, phone, messaging), doctors and nurses can now help patients complete the annual verification or recertification process via telehealth appointment.

Medical cannabis can improve patient outcomes across demographics. In the wake of groundbreaking research, patients, physicians and retailers are working together to increase the drug’s accessibility for patients who require relief from a range of health conditions. Telehealth platforms have been instrumental in not only increasing access to medical marijuana but also in improving the quality of life across diverse populations of people.

Get Seen On Screen In NM

Greenview Medical Clinic in Albuquerque offers a personalized visit with a board-certified family nurse practitioner who takes a medical history and performs a focused exam to determine your qualification for medical cannabis. 

Albuquerque-based Alameda Acute Care Clinic and Family Medicine also sets up telemedicine appointments from wherever you are. 

The process for applying for a medical cannabis card is actually quite easy. For most medical conditions, you must have medical documentation that supports your diagnosis within the last 2 years and an N.M. driver’s license or ID.  

Currently, there are 28 approved medical conditions for the program. You only need one condition to qualify. If you do not have one of the qualifying conditions, a PTSD evaluation may be an option if you have experienced trauma or have signs or symptoms of PTSD. 

The New Mexico Legislature enacted a new section of the Health Care Purchasing Act, titled “Coverage For Telemedicine Services,” which defines “telemedicine” as both interactive two-way audio/video and store-and-forward technology (electronic transmission of a patient’s medical information from a healthcare provider at an originating site to a healthcare provider at a distant site). This has given New Mexico the widest range of telemedicine health services in the nation, including telemedicine services from behavioral analysts, counseling services, social work services, home rehabilitative services and services by addition/substance abuse specialists.

The act requires health coverage of telemedicine services at the same rate as the equivalent service provided in-person, by all forms of private insurance and New Mexico Medicaid. In addition it requires that clinical services provided via telemedicine must be encrypted and conform to state and federal privacy laws.

Virtual Cannabis Consulting

The green light during the COVID pandemic has providers in many states temporarily cleared for virtual cannabis visits. More than two dozen states have temporarily permitted prescribing medical cannabis via telemedicine, most for the first time.

While some worry about patient safety and the long-term consequences of opening up medical marijuana to telehealth in a sudden, widespread fashion, others have embraced the new model.

Jordan Tishler, MD, who runs a medical cannabis practice in the Boston area, prefered to be in the same room as his patients. After about a month of just virtual visits, however, he said, “I have found telemedicine works well for what I do.”

Telehealth represents the intersection between innovative technology and the forefront of medical science. Remote medical practice saw its beginnings more than half a century ago. Recent technological advancements have connected more patients to physicians than ever before.

Patients can meet with health care professionals over secure video chat and can be approved to access cannabis within minutes. Physicians will typically follow up with patients by email, recommending the types of cannabis that would best alleviate their ailments and ensuring that they don’t purchase the wrong products.

The next step forward for telehealth platforms includes opportunities such as virtual patient education and the fast, reliable delivery of essential drugs such as medical marijuana. Virtual care is also expected to expand across different types of patients, including those requiring intensive care. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many long-term care facilities have already adapted remote patient monitoring to maintain the safety of staff and patients.

Old Drug, New Tricks

A recent study completed by Canopy Growth (NASDAQ:CGC, TSX:WEED) in November 2020 found the absence of long-term toxicity despite long-term usage of CBD in a preclinical model, supporting the advancement of recent initiatives aimed at discovering CBD’s full range of therapeutic benefits. While CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) offer many of the same benefits, high levels of THC are responsible for most of cannabis’s psychoactive effects.

While the chronic pain segment dominated the medical cannabis market in 2019, application toward mental illness is expected to witness the fastest growth over the seven-year forecast period. Worldwide, a growing number of people suffer from depression, anxiety and other debilitating mental conditions with few low-risk pharmaceutical alternatives.

Medical cannabis is also becoming more popular among older adults. A recent study highlighted that cannabis use among individuals aged 65 and older has been steadily increasing, a trend that is consistent with reports from physicians who recommend cannabis in their daily practices.

In the face of growing public acceptance and reduced stigma, we are beginning to see an increasing number of older adults rely on cannabis for relief against chronic pain, insomnia, neuropathy, anxiety and other conditions that traditionally call upon pharmaceuticals. Telemedicine offers them a way to receive help without leaving home.

Much of the momentum in the medical cannabis market can be owed to the rise of telehealth platforms and health digitization efforts, increasing ease of access and promoting transparency. Over the next decade, legalization increased awareness, and the rise of remote medicine is expected to facilitate growth, creating lucrative opportunities for market stakeholders.

Telehealth platforms represent one of the easiest ways for patients, providers and retailers to collaborate remotely and fulfill needs faster. As more physicians and policymakers begin to recognize digital health tools as an advantage for maximizing efficiency and safety in health care, existing medical cannabis platforms are well-positioned to take advantage of a large-scale digital transition.