by Peter Res
Medical Marijuana, which is legal for use in 20 states plus Washington DC, has been the subject of much controversy over the past several years. Although marijuana has shown to be an effective treatment for terminal and chronic illnesses as well as anxiety, it is still classified as Schedule 1 under Federal law, along with heroin, cocaine, and other narcotics, and is considered a hazardous and highly illegal substance, regardless of state law.
Due to this federal designation, the FDA does not plan to approve the drug, which means that insurance companies have chosen to steer clear of covering its cost to consumers, under any circumstances.
For the person with chronic pain or illness who uses medicinal marijuana as a remedy for pain, this news can be absolutely crushing, especially if your treatment requires you to purchase large quantities of the drug.
How then, can the problem be solved?
Are patients stuck with the burden of paying full price, sometimes hundreds of dollars, for medical marijuana?
Contrary to what you might think, there are a few ways to potentially get around at least some of the costs associated with medical marijuana, and still keep your insurance coverage.
Here’s a step-by-step guide of how it can be done, as well as some generally smart practices to keep in mind along the way.
Know Your Registration Rights: How You Can Benefit
The 20 states that currently permit medical marijuana usage are: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Washington DC, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.
Each of these states has their own unique regulations regarding medicinal marijuana use and registration.
If you live in one of these states, and you’re already registered by the state as a user, then you are well aware of this fact. But it’s important to know what benefits you qualify for as well.
How can knowing registration specifics help you afford your medication?
Some states offer lower registration fees for users who apply for them. New Jersey, for instance, offers reduced registration fees through their Medicinal Marijuana Program, under certain circumstances. The fee of $200 can effectively be reduced to $20 for patients that are covered by Medicaid, are on Social Security Disability, SSI, or Food Stamps. For more information, see the NJ MMP Page.
In some states, dispensaries and centers are permitted to offer their products at a reduced cost to consumers.
If you’d like to know if these options are possible in your state, inquire with the state directly (and anonymously), go to your state’s official website to find out more.
State to state: All approved states, except Oregon, require a residency requirement for registration.
Alternative Options For Reducing Cost
Did you know that 15 of the 20 states that permit medical marijuana usage also permit home cultivation, or growing of plants, under certain circumstances?
You may live in a state that allows you to cultivate your own plants for your personal medical use. This can considerably offset the cost of paying full price for medicinal marijuana products at dispensaries and alternative care centers.
For more information on the specific laws of each state, as well as the conditions that are required for cultivation, see procon.org, a great resource for specific state requirements, procedures, and benefits.
Marijuana laws are constantly changing, and states are slowly becoming more open to the idea of allowing its use for medicinal purposes.
Although the Affordable Care Act does not mention the use of marijuana for treatment, and the Federal government is staunchly opposed to delisting it as a Schedule 1 drug, petitions have been filed at the state and congressional levels, and researchers are continuing to find proof of marijuana’s usage in medical cases, particularly in cancer and chemotherapy treatment, and the treatment of muscular diseases such as MS.
Notably, more states are leaning toward implementing medicinal marijuana regulation, and a few states, such as Virginia and New Hampshire, have laws on the books that have yet to be implemented.
For those of you who are struggling to find an affordable way to cover the cost of your treatment, or who live in a non-medical marijuana state such as New York, it is important not to lose hope.
Regulations change rapidly, and federal law is also subject to change. You may find one day soon that you qualify under new regulations to benefit from the reduced cost of medical marijuana. There may even be a regulation in place that you can benefit from immediately.
Peter Res is a writer, poet, and editor. In addition to writing for Vista Health Solutions he is currently an adjunct professor of Writing and Composition at Centenary College of New Jersey, and an editor for the literary magazine Collective Fallout.