Published: Jul 20, 2022

Can All of My Doctors See that I have my Medical Card?

In our latest question and answer, our cannabis expert discusses whether or not all of your doctors will be able to see if you have your medical card.

Answered by: Dr. Geoffrey Brown, PharmD

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Kate Asked

Will all my doctors be able to see I have a medical card?

Summary

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Your other doctors aren't notified automatically when you get your medical card, but medical cannabis purchases get uploaded to the State's PMP registry.

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Your other doctors have access to this registry, but usually only check it before or after they prescribe you a controlled substance.

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Be sure to inform all of your healthcare providers that you use medical cannabis.

Answer

Hi Kate that’s an excellent question. While getting your medical cannabis card allows you the freedom to purchase an amazing selection of cannabis products from licensed dispensaries, as you alluded to in your question, you may not want all of your other healthcare providers to know that you have your medical card. So, is there anyway that they can find out? Let’s dive in and learn more below.

 

Will all my Doctors be able to See I have a Medical Card?

No. Your other doctors don’t get notified that you’ve received your medical card. The only doctor that will have direct access to that information is your certifying practitioner (the doctor that is issuing you your medical card).

However, if you have multiple doctors that work at the same clinic or health system, information about your medical history (including that you were certified for medical cannabis) could be listed in your medical chart. If throughout the course of your care, one of your other doctors needs to access your medical chart, they may review it and find out that you were previously issued your medical cannabis card. It’s important for all of your healthcare providers to know if you’re using medical cannabis because it could impact your care.

 

So How Would a Doctor Know that I have my Medical Card?

After you receive your medical card and buy products from a dispensary, details about your purchase get uploaded to the State’s prescription monitoring program (PMP), formerly known as I-STOP (Internet System for Tracking Over Prescribing). Doctors are required by law to consult the PMP registry and look up your history before they prescribe you a controlled substance. Remember that even though medical cannabis is available in NY, cannabis remains a DEA Schedule I controlled substance and is treated as such by New York State. So, if your doctor prescribes you any controlled substances then they are likely to find out that you use medical cannabis because they’ll see the cannabis products that you’ve purchased on your PMP dispensation record. If your doctor doesn’t prescribe you any controlled substances, they’ll have no reason to check the PMP, so they’re not likely to find out unless you to tell them.

While I know there is substantial stigma associated with medical cannabis I strongly recommend you tell all of your doctors that you use medical cannabis. Medical cannabis can cause significant drug-disease and drug-drug interactions that can be severe and even life threatening in some circumstances.



Is there Anyway I Can Keep This Information Private?

State law requires that all medical cannabis purchases be reported to I-STOP. Therefore, if you purchase medical cannabis products using your medical card and another one of your doctors checks the PMP throughout the course of your care, they will find out. There is no hiding it. The only way you could hope to keep this information somewhat private is by visiting a separate provider or specialist for medical cannabis, and avoid filling any controlled substances that you’re prescribed. Again, if you’re not prescribed any other controlled substances then your doctor has no reason to check your PMP record.

Why Might I want to Keep This Information Private?

Some clinics treating pain or substance use disorders have very strict rules about patients using “drugs of abuse”. Since cannabis has been historically thought of as a drug of abuse, some clinics prohibit their patients from using cannabis altogether (even medical cannabis). These clinics commonly drug test their patients and may choose to exclude patients from receiving further treatment if a patient tests positive for a drug of abuse. Some clinics may be ok with patients using medical cannabis, but not cannabis used for recreational purposes. So if a patient tests positive for THC a doctor from that clinic may check the PMP or call a dispensary to see if the patient has purchased medical cannabis recently. If the patient hasn’t purchased any medical cannabis the clinic may decide to exclude the patient from their clinic. This practice is somewhat rare nowadays, but was pretty commonplace back when NY first legalized medical cannabis in 2014. 

 

Final Thoughts

While I know there is substantial stigma associated with the use of medical cannabis, I strongly recommend that you tell all of your doctors if you use medical cannabis. Medical cannabis can cause significant drug-disease and drug-drug interactions that can be severe and even life threatening in some circumstances. Don’t let a fear of embarrassment or judgement stop you from being honest with your doctor! Remember that doctors are required to keep your health information confidential and that public sentiment about medical cannabis is changing for the better.

I hope this helps!  If anything else comes up feel free to ask us another question here.

References

Health.ny.gov: I-STOP/PMP Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing-Prescription Monitoring Program (Link)

HHS.gov: Summary of the HIPAA Privacy Rule (Link)

Psychology Today: The Continuing Stigma Surrounding Medical Marijuana (Link)

Pew Research Center: Americans overwhelmingly say marijuana should be legal for recreational or medical use (Link)

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Dr. Geoffrey Brown, PharmD

Dr. Geoffrey Brown is a registered medical cannabis pharmacist in New York State and the founder of CannaBuff. He graduated from the University at Buffalo with a Doctor of Pharmacy degree in 2018. His cannabis research has been featured by the national advocacy group NORML and local news organizations. Please feel free to reach out to him if you want to connect!

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