Patients in Canada say the high cost associated with their ‘medication’ is pushing them to seek illegal sources for their medical marijuana. They say conventional medications which fail to ease their pain from maladies ranging from back pain to PTSD to sleep disorders are often alleviated by medical marijuana, but they add that the price of the treatments can run nearly as much as conventional drugs.
Canadian Jill Grindle told CBC News that her standard insurance plan fails to pay for her legally prescribed cannabis and that if she uses her full, four-gram daily allowance of the treatment, the cost adds up to nearly $1,200 a month. Grindle says she keeps cost down by using just one gram a day.
“It’s costing a pretty penny,” Grindle says. “So what I do is I under-medicate greatly. I scrimp and I save and I only use it very sparingly.”
Canadians are preparing for the likelihood of their federal government legalizing marijuana for recreational use as soon as July of 2018. As a result, a growing number of medical marijuana patients in Canada are calling on Health Canada to provide coverage for their legally-prescribed pot just as it does for traditional medications. Veterans and patients with health care spending accounts can be reimbursed for the cost of their medical cannabis.
Health Canada Asked By Patients to Consider Medical Pot Insurance. Will the US Follow Suit?
The director of community outreach for Canadian firm Natural Health Services, Kait Shane, says Canadians are currently allowed to claim the price of their cannabis on their tax filings, but she adds that many patients are concerned that legalization won’t lead to coverage.
“Every patient comes in and is kind of wondering the same thing,” Shane says. “Can we be covered? Will we be covered? It’s a matter of lobbying. To get Health Canada to recognize it’s not feasible for them to go through the same trials as other drugs. High costs currently push many patients to seek alternative options through illegal avenues with zero testing protocols. The lack of testing could put a patient’s health at risk.”
As of now, there are 28 states (and the District of Columbia) which have passed Medical Marijuana laws in various forms. Voters in California passed a state medical marijuana initiative back in 1996, Proposition 215, which permits patients to possess and cultivate marijuana for the treatment of maladies such as AIDS, cancer, muscular spasms and migraine headaches. While the federal government and states are still butting heads over the regulation of medical cannabis, the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) has announced a policy change they say is designed to foster research. The policy change expanded the number of DEA-registered marijuana manufacturers, and the DEA said, “This change should provide researchers with a more varied and robust supply of marijuana… This change illustrates DEA’s commitment to working together with the FDA and NIDA to facilitate research concerning marijuana and its components.”
As the U.S. moves toward health care reform and marijuana legalization on a national level, the obvious questions what that means to patients. Will they ultimately follow the Canadian model for how medical cannabis is used – and paid for – or develop a free market approach to providing patients access to their medication?