Medical Marijuana in San Francisco
September 27, 2009 10:36 AM   Subscribe

Exactly how hard is it to acquire a medical marijuana recommendation in San Francisco for $100 or less?

I am 19 years old, live in San Francisco, and am considering getting a medical marijuana recommendation for my chronic anxiety. Basically I'm not too good at interacting with other people, especially strangers, and often feel very awkward in conversations. At night before I go to sleep my mind will often replay all of these awkward moments and I'll obsess over really stupid things like "man I shouldn't have offered that girl a handshake it probably made her feel butch FUCK", and insomnia usually results. Weed, especially Indica strains, help to ease my mind.

So my question is, without any formal documentation from my Primary Care Physician, how hard would it be to get a recommendation? I am considering going to Green Relief on Sutter street. Being on a budget, I am not really willing to spend more than $100.

Also, since I am a dependent student on my parent's health insurance plan, will they automatically find out about this?

Thanks for the help, Hive mind.
posted by MattMangels to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
More or less this same question was just asked and got good recommendations. Or you can google "Americans for Safe Access" and read their information.
posted by gingerbeer at 10:48 AM on September 27, 2009

posted by SNWidget at 10:49 AM on September 27, 2009

Response by poster: This is not the same question. I don't have HIV or any formal documentation of my condition.
posted by MattMangels at 11:33 AM on September 27, 2009

Can't speak to the California-specific parts (obtaining the recommendation, etc.), but as long as you're an adult who hasn't signed a HIPAA form specifically authorizing the doctor, the insurance company, or their agents to disclose your medical info to your parents, they are forbidden to do so.
posted by willpie at 11:43 AM on September 27, 2009

the previous thread answers your question very specifically. please read klangklangston's response, linked here
posted by lester's sock puppet at 11:46 AM on September 27, 2009

as long as you're an adult who hasn't signed a HIPAA form specifically authorizing the doctor, the insurance company, or their agents to disclose your medical info to your parents, they are forbidden to do so.

There's the rules and then there's reality. It depends on how important it is to MattMangels that his parents not find out. I have had many insurance companies and doctors' offices reveal information to my parents when I was over the age of 18 and without my consent. Once, because my father was listed as the financially responsible person, he was sent the results of my Pap smear, while I was sent the bill. I don't know exactly how that mixup happened, but it could have been disastrous if it was something I really didn't want him to know about. (And this was during the HIPAA regime). Plus insurance EOBs are sometimes detailed enough that parents might be able to figure it out. So no, they wouldn't automatically find out, but MattMangels has to be prepared for the very real possibility that they could find out somehow.
posted by katemonster at 2:58 PM on September 27, 2009

Towards the insurance part of the question, then.

You have a couple of options. If you do not want to pay out of pocket for the recommendation, and want your insurance to cover the doctor's visit needed to get the recommendation, then you need to find a primary care provider who will both take your insurance and write you a recommendation. It is unlikely that the bill or any paperwork that your parents would see would read "pot smoker" but it could read "mental health consultation" or something to that effect.

If you are willing to pay cash for the doctor's visit, then see the previous thread, call one of the doctors on the ASA list, or ask at your preferred dispensary if they can recommend someone. No insurance company involvement. Unless you try to get this billed to your insurance, it won't come to the attention of your insurance company or your parents.

A number of people specialize in writing these sorts of recommendations and work to make it as easy as possible for you. Whether it can be done for under $100 is a bit of a different question, and you may have to ask around to see what the going rate it.
posted by gingerbeer at 5:26 PM on September 27, 2009

Whoa whoa whoa. Slow down there. You're having anxiety and insomnia...why is weed your first choice of treatment? Some thoughts:

1) Having persistent, unrealistic, obsessive thoughts about social interactions that keep you up at night is not normal or healthy. You should consider talk therapy. It's very effective, in general, and may help you to achieve valuable insights about how your mind works.
2) Have you tried taking OTC medications, such as Benadryl, for sleep? If you can sleep soundly without taking weed or prescription sleeping pills, it would be much better for you.
3) If your anxiety isn't effectively addressed by talk therapy, you might consider the beneficial potential of modern pharmaceuticals. They help a lot of people to live much more comfortable and productive lives.

Of course, if you just want to get high (and that's fine!), do what you gotta do. If you have real problems, though, weed may not be the best choice.
posted by clockzero at 7:38 PM on September 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

My son's babysitter's mother has stage II oral cancer. She is undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments, but her oncologists refused to give her a prescription for medical marijuana, even though our state has allowed it for many years. Because she doesn't speak much English -- and can't talk much because of the oral cancer anyway, which had necessitated some tongue removal -- I called around to various local doctors and dispensaries on her behalf, trying to get her some help. This was about six months ago, and we're in Los Angeles, not San Francisco, but the procedures should be similar where you are.

What I learned is that if you call them up, most dispensaries will provide you with the name of a local doctor with whom they're affiliated who sees patients to evaluate them for a special state ID card. You cannot even enter many of the dispensaries without showing them this card each time. This local doctor's office may have a purposely innocuous sounding name like "Compassionate Caregivers" or "[your town name] Wellness Center", or something like that. They do not use the word pot or marijuana in their names, although a few will use the term "Green" in their name. Even when you call them up, they are cagey on the phone about who and what they are, until you flat out ask them for a meeting with the doctor. They operate in a slightly grey zone and have to be careful.

The doctors' offices I spoke to only take cash, not insurance, and you have to pay it up front at the appointment. Rates ranged from $125 to $175 for the appointment. If you have any documentation or copies of your medical files about your condition from your regular doctors, definitely bring that to the appointment. Otherwise, you may be able to just tell them that you have anxiety and trouble sleeping and that may be enough for them to write you the prescription and get you the state ID card. Given the all-cash nature of their business and their, um, interesting websites ( was one in my area), I don't think they're going to fight against giving you the card.

It looks like Yelp! may have listings you could browse in your area.

Good luck!
posted by Asparagirl at 11:39 PM on September 27, 2009

Others have already given you good info about how to hook up with a doctor who can get you into the medical marijuana system.

But I would strongly encourage you to think, as clockzero says, about dealing with the anxiety and the obsessive/intrusive thoughts business on a number of levels. Alleviating those symptoms can be really helpful, but don't you also want to deal with the roots of the problems?
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:21 AM on September 28, 2009

Seconding clockzero. I've been in a more or less similar situation, and weed did indeed help---but then whenever I stopped smoking weed, my problems were magnified even beyond what they were before I started.

Weed, as has already been said, is not a good long-term solution. It has some valid medical uses, but as a long-term anti-anxiety medication I think it may ultimately do more harm than good, to the tune of you being addicted to it.

("Weed isn't addictive, blah blah!" Well, if you approach weed with the mindset that it's the only way to make your life seem better, you bet it is.)

Again seconding clockzero, get high if you want to get high. If you think you have real anxiety problems, see an actual doctor.

For what it's worth, by the way, your self-diagnosis is in no way unusual for a 19 year old, or for that matter someone of any age at all. The key to overcoming the problem of being awkward around strangers is to put yourself in that position all the time until you get used to it. Or, avoid people and call it a day. If you use weed to solve this problem, you will only be able to interact with people when high, and likely even worse off than you were before when sober.

Not to mention, doing some bong rips and then being "social" with people who aren't as high as you is a fairly good way to embarrass the shit out of yourself. Don't ask me how I know.

For the record, I love weed madly for the same reasons you do, and that is why I almost never smoke it anymore.
posted by Darth Fedor at 10:03 AM on September 28, 2009

2) Have you tried taking OTC medications, such as Benadryl, for sleep? If you can sleep soundly without taking weed or prescription sleeping pills, it would be much better for you.

Clockzero, you're other advice was good, but suggesting someone take an H1 agonist instead of a CB1/CB2 agonist is inane. There are far more side effects from antihistamines (including physical dependence, heart arrhythmia, and the possibility of overdosing) than from cannabinoids.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 1:24 PM on September 28, 2009

Er, H1 antagonist.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 1:25 PM on September 28, 2009

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