Medical Cannabis Institute

Under the direction of David Wolfe, MD, the Medical Cannabis Institute at ARA offers expert evaluation, consultation, and management for patients who wish to safely incorporate medical cannabis into their treatment plans for common rheumatology symptoms such as pain, spasm, and insomnia. 

Dr. Wolfe has been offering medical cannabis certifications along with expert guidance and supervision for ARA patients in DC and Maryland for over 10 years. Given his success with patients, ARA has established the Medical Cannabis Institute to reach and help more eligible patients.  This service, which includes Dr. Wolfe, Alisha Zaveri, PA-C, Blake Leibowitz, PA-C, and Laura Robbins, PA-C, can now help any person over age 21 who resides in DC, Maryland, and Virginia who wish to be certified to use medical cannabis.   

Is medical cannabis legal for everyone?

The District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia have all adopted laws that make it legal for any resident of those jurisdictions to be registered in their medical cannabis programs. However, there are some exclusions including registered firearm owners in Maryland who are prohibited from being certified to use medical cannabis. Medical Cannabis remains illegal at the federal level, so Federal Government employees may jeopardize their employment if they use medical cannabis. Medical cannabis can only be purchased at a licensed medical cannabis dispensary. For those unable to go to a dispensary, a friend or family member can be designated as a “caregiver” who is authorized to make purchases at a dispensary on their behalf. 

Why should a person certify in a state medical cannabis program if recreational cannabis is legal and available? Similarly, why would I need to make an appointment at the Medical Cannabis Institute?

DC currently has an unregulated “gifting” program for recreational cannabis, which is not recommended, and a framework for recreational cannabis sales has stalled in the Virginia legislature and it is not currently available. While adult use (recreational) cannabis is legal in Maryland as of July 1, 2023, those who are registered as medical cannabis patients will have access to a wider range of medicinal products, will have easier access to the purchase of cannabis, and, while adult use (recreational cannabis) will be taxed at 9%, medical cannabis is not taxed. The Medical Cannabis Institute provides expert advice and supervision to those who are interested in using cannabis safely and effectively and this service is not available without an appointment.

What medical conditions are treated at the Medical Cannabis Institute?

The treatment team at the Medical Cannabis Institute focuses on treating those symptoms with which we are most familiar and have the best support in the medical literature. These include chronic pain, muscle spasms, and insomnia

What medical conditions are not treated at the Medical Cannabis Institute?

The treatment team at the Medical Cannabis Institute does not treat those conditions with which they are not familiar including PTSD, depression, glaucoma, nausea, anorexia, seizures, wasting syndrome, autism, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, or other acute or chronic diseases.  

What is in medical cannabis?

Medical cannabis consists of different ratios of chemicals from the cannabis (marijuana) plant including THC, CBD, CBN, CBG, THCA, CBDA, and terpenes. Only THC is potentially intoxicating, and this effect can be minimized or avoided by carefully adjusting the ratio of chemicals consumed. 

How is medical cannabis used?

Most patients use medical cannabis in the form of edibles, oral tinctures, or topicals. Regular smoking or vaping of cannabis is generally discouraged as dose control is more difficult and chronic smoking or vaping can be harmful to the lungs. 

How does medical cannabis work?

Medical cannabis works by interacting with a complex series of receptors and chemicals in the human body called the endocannabinoid system. Deficiencies and imbalances in this system seem to play a central role in the processing and perception of pain and in difficulties initiating and maintaining sleep, among other things. 

Is medical cannabis safe?

Cannabis use is generally safe and well tolerated if an individual starts with a low dose and increases the dose slowly. There has never been a reported death directly attributable to cannabis including after consumption of very large amounts. There are medical or psychiatric conditions and certain medications that make use of medical cannabis potentially problematic for some people and members of the Medical Cannabis Institute, work with other treating providers, if necessary, to ensure that a patient is a good candidate to use medical cannabis. 

How does a person get certified to use medical cannabis?

Eligible residents of Maryland and Virginia can be certified by a member of the Medical Cannabis Institute which also offer expert advice and supervision pre and post-certification. Residents of the District of Columbia can “self-certify” for the DC Medical Cannabis program and no longer require certification by a medical provider. Nonetheless, the same expert advice and supervision are available to DC residents through the Medical Cannabis Institute. 

Is medical cannabis covered by insurance?

Unfortunately, medical cannabis itself is not covered by insurance although your consultation at the ARA Medical Cannabis Institute is covered by participating insurance plans. 

Since medical cannabis is legal in Maryland, why do I need to be seen at the Medical Cannabis Institute or certify in the medical cannabis program?

Even though adult use (recreational) cannabis is legal in Maryland as of July 1st, 2023, those who are registered as medical cannabis patients will have access to a wider range of medicinal products and, while adult use cannabis is taxed at 9%, medical cannabis is not taxed. Furthermore, the Medical Cannabis Institute provides expert advice and supervision to those who are interested in using cannabis safely and effectively.

How can I learn more?

If you suffer from uncontrolled chronic pain, muscle spasms, mild anxiety, or insomnia, ask your ARA provider for a referral to a member of the Medical Cannabis Institute or, if you are not currently a patient of ARA, you can book an appointment for a new patient consultation. To book an appointment at the ARA Medical Cannabis Institute call 240.621.7433. 

Educational Resources from the Medical Cannabis Institute

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