Slowly but surely medical marijuana has become easier to get. In states/provinces where the recreational use has been decriminalized, picking up a supply can be as easy as doing a grocery run. But even still, there are many places where access is still heavily restricted. There are a number of things you need to know should you be looking towards taking marijuana for medical purposes, especially if you reside in a prohibitionist state. Plus, plenty of evidence suggests that marijuana may not be quite as benign as many people may have you believe.

Plenty of well-intentioned people have ended up in trouble for not doing their research before starting this kind of treatment. Here are five things they should have known in the first place.

1) Understand Your Local & Employment Legalities
The accessibility/availability of medical marijuana is going to vary wildly according to your locality. In the vast majority of prohibitionist regions, you will need the formal written approval of a medical doctor, who will usually issue documentation that allows you to purchase marijuana from licensed dispensaries. One key factor that many people neglect to examine is how this can affect their employment status. Companies who use drug testing can and often will fire employees who test positive regardless of medical approval. A majority of states currently do not offer any legal protection against this practice, so be sure to check your company policy and legal status before taking up medical marijuana.

2) Be Aware Of Potential Health Risks
It is easy to assume that marijuana is a 'safe' drug that may even be beneficial in some aspects of our health. Most medical use will be in helping to control pain as an alternative to pharmaceutical opioids, but a number of studies suggest that for some people using marijuana may not be worth it. Pregnant women are believed to be at a higher risk of miscarriage and anemia. Those with depression and anxiety may find it worsens their symptoms (although others can find it beneficial). Marijuana also prompts many people towards unhealthy eating - the 'munchies' - and can both limit motivation and lessen general energy. There are numerous other cases where marijuana can be counterproductive, and this is the key reason why a proportion of doctors still refuse to sanction its use.

3) Consider How You Will Take Your Marijuana Safely
So you have acquired your marijuana, so what are the next steps? Do not automatically assume that it is best taken by either a rolled up joint or pipe. The heat applied to burn the plant can lead to lung damage, especially when mixed with tobacco. Many people opt for edibles instead, but do be aware that these can vary massively in strength. Eat just a little first and do not assume that they deliver a 'standard' dose every time. Vaporizers are perhaps the best option as they filter out the majority of harmful aspects of the plant. However, good models can be expensive and many opt for the cheaper options despite placing themselves at risk by doing so.

4) Stick To A Dosing Schedule
One of the most common slip-ups newcomers make when starting out with medical marijuana is taking too much over an erratic schedule. Just like any other form of medication, it is important that people take their doses routinely but without abusing it for simple pleasure alone. This is especially important for those who often need to drive, as being caught under the influence behind the wheel will generally lead to serious legal prosecution. Do not assume that you will be able to take medical marijuana throughout the day without needing to make often quite substantial alterations to your daily schedule. It is essential to factor this in before getting started.

5) Buy Marijuana Carefully
Everyone ought to know that marijuana strains can vary enormously in potency and effect. Take the time to learn to pick the best strain for your condition and just as importantly, how much you can dose while remaining generally functional. If considering ordering online, take a moment to learn how to do so safely. Pick who you decide to buy from carefully. The best online sites will offer very wide ranges of plants to choose between as well as offer edibles and CBD based alternatives (that contain next to no psychoactive THC). A good proportion of people struggle at first to find the best plants at a reasonable cost and be vigilant when choosing where to buy from. There are many low-quality sites and scams out there.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and even if you have made mistakes when getting started with your medical marijuana these are usually pretty straightforward to fix. If you are already taking marijuana and not yet looked into how this may affect your legal position, then do so right away. If you are taking too much (ask a friend/family member if unsure) then reconsider your dosing and try instead to stick to a set schedule. In most places your medical documentation will need to be renewed annually, so do not let that expire and remember that there is an administrative fee (generally US $50-75) to pay each time.

Generally speaking, it is quite easy to enjoy the benefits that medical marijuana may be able to offer you, but be sure to take care and avoid these pitfalls which have caused so many people to already slip up.