Although my home state (Washington state) legalized recreational cannabis in a 2012 vote, I recently decided to go through the process required to acquire a medical card. However, this isn’t the first time I’ve considered going through this process.
From my preliminary research, there are few benefits for acquiring a medical card in Washington State. For example, with a medical card, I will no longer be required to pay sales tax on cannabis. However, I’m having a hard time finding out exactly how much that is (i.e., how much I would save per purchase). One source I saw briefly, but couldn’t find again, said that I might save around 8% on all of my purchases in Spokane County (where I live). If the cost to get my authorization is $150, and I only spend about $40 a month on cannabis, I would only save about $40 in taxes a year according to that source. Although, because I couldn’t find it again, I’m not sure that’s entirely accurate. Also, I think that the medical card authorization has to be renewed every year and renewals are also $150. If my calculations are correct, I would actually lose $110 a year with a medical card.
Other benefits include the ability to grow up to 4 plants in my home. But I live in a small apartment with another human and 3 animals: a medium-sized dog, a large cat, and an average-sized cat. In other words, we don’t have a lot of extra space in our current living space. I could probably turn the front closet into a grow area since it has a door on it, but that’s also where the water heater is at, so it gets pretty warm in there sometimes. Maybe that would be a good thing, though? Either way, I’m not totally opposed to growing my own cannabis.
As I said earlier, I spend about $40 a month on cannabis, which is $480 a year. I estimate that the cost to manage 4-plants for a year is somewhere around $100 plus another $50 for all of the starter supplies I’ll buy the first time; a total of $150. If it costs $150 to grow my plants the first year, plus $150 for the authorization fee, I would spend about $300 in my first year. With a current yearly budget of about $480 minus $300 to start my first grow, I would save about $180.
With those savings, I could still afford to buy a sales-tax-free cartridge with my medical card. Or, I could take those savings and put them towards the purchase of a Pax 3 Vaporizer ($200-$250). Both options would allow me to discreetly consume cannabis in public. A cartridge is more ideal for airplane travel, as it’s indistinguishable from a tobacco cartridge. However, the Pax 3 Vaporizer can be used for dry herb and extracts. I rarely travel, so as a result, I would probably purchase the Pax Vaporizer to consume my own product more often. If I have to travel by plane at any point, I could just factor in the cost of a cartridge. Although, I’ve seen people take their Pax 3 on a plane without issue.
So what’s next?
According to Washington State law, any of the following healthcare practitioners is allowed to authorization cannabis for medicinal use as long as they are licensed to practice in Washington State:
- Medical Doctor (MD)
- Physician Assistant (PA)
- Osteopathic Physician (DO)
- Osteopathic Physician Assistant (DOA)
- Naturopathic Physician (ND)
- Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner (ARNP)
Therefore, my current primary care provider (who is an ARNP) should be able to (a) fill out the authorization form; and, (b) that should eliminate the $150 cost. I will have to go into my appointment fully prepared, because we have talked about this previously. However, her concern was that she didn’t have the right licensing. Which leads me to believe that she has been misinformed about the laws. If that’s true, who else could I help with this process?
As a result, my next step is to schedule an appointment with my primary care provider. Whether or not this process ultimately saves me money, I’m hoping that the awareness I can spread along the way helps others in need of information. Cannabis should be accessible to those who need it, but it’s really not that accessible for low-income people as it stands now. If my primary care provider is unable/unwilling to help me, I’ll schedule a medication appointment with my pain doctor and start the conversation with them.
Stay tuned because I will be documenting this process along the way. I’m excited to share my findings with you! If you’re in Washington State and have a medical card, please share any advice you might have for me in the comments below.