Why State-Issued Cards Are Needed for Some Plant-Based Medicines

If you wanted access to a certain group of plant-based medicines in Utah, you would have to apply for a state-issued medical card. The same is true in more than three-dozen states across the country. The big question is why a medical card is needed for some plant-based medicines but not others. As far as the answer is concerned, it has to do with the legal status of each plant.

Not Necessarily Herbal Medicine

It’s important to point out that plant-based medicine is not necessarily herbal medicine. There is a distinct difference between the two. Herbal medicine involves the use of plants and plant parts for medicinal purposes. Plant-based medicine is more focused on the chemical compounds found in plants.

An herbalist might recommend a variety of roots, flowers, and plant leaves to treat a particular health condition. Meanwhile, a plant-based practitioner might specifically recommend CBD, a cannabinoid harvested from hemp plants. You’re probably familiar with CBD given its popularity as a health supplement.

The main point here is that some people do not understand why state-issued cards are necessary because they assume that all plant-based medicines qualify as herbal medicine. Meanwhile, people are free to practice herbal medicine as they see fit without any special permission from the state. See the confusion?

A Medicine’s Legal Status

This brings us to the previously mentioned point of legal status. Let us say your herbalist recommended you take turmeric to help inflammation. Turmeric is a spice that is both legal and easily accessible around the world. You are free to ingest it for whatever reason.

Now, imagine your doctor is a big proponent of plant-based medicine. She recommends CBD oil to manage muscle pain. Once again, CBD is fully legal and easily accessible across the country. But that is not true of all plant-based medicines.

Some of the medicines your doctor might want to recommend could otherwise be illegal. Take psychedelics and cannabis. Both are Schedule I controlled substances under federal law. In order to use them legally. You would need a state-issued medical card.

State Laws Vary

Utah issues medical cards for medicines containing THC. Medical groups like KindlyMD assist patients in obtaining their cards through medical evaluations and recommendations. Utah currently does not allow psychedelics for medical use, but other states do.

As for why state laws vary, it boils down to the fact that they have taken the lead in regulating plant-based medicines. Meanwhile, federal lawmakers have decided to continue kicking the issue down the road. There is no telling if Washington will ever take up plant-based medicine in a meaningful way.

The Science Behind Plant-Based Medicine

A good way to close this post is to briefly discuss the science behind plant-based medicine. One of the things that separates plant-based medicine from its herbal counterpart is the goal of having science back up any proposed treatments. Classifying hemp and CBD as plant-based medicines explains a surge in research over the last 5-10 years.

Science barely plays a role in herbal medicine. Rather, decisions about herbal practices are informed by cultural knowledge and traditions. Herbal practitioners pass down their knowledge from generation to generation. They are less impressed with scientific data and more concerned about patient reports.

Both herbal and plant-based medicine deserve a place at the healthcare table. But for now, certain types of plant-based medicines can only be obtained with state-issued medical cards. If your state has a med card program, you will probably still need to submit to a medical evaluation and a doctor’s recommendation to get one. That is just the way things are right now.

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