As medical marijuana continues to gain acceptance in the mainstream, more Floridians are adding cannabis to their health regimen.

Physicians recommend cannabis to patients living with conditions ranging from anxiety and depression to anorexia and Parkinson’s. The substance’s healing properties have earned cannabis a place in medical treatment, but have the insurance companies kept pace with its inclusion and acceptance?

Major Headway Statewide

First, let’s look at a quick update as to state laws.

As of 2021, 38 states and the District of Columbia have approved comprehensive medical marijuana programs for their citizens. Fifteen states and the District of Columbia have also approved recreational marijuana use for adults.

In those states, including Florida,  where only medical marijuana is legal, users must obtain a medical marijuana card to purchase the cannabis legally.

Federal Stance on Marijuana Prohibits Insurance Coverage

Despite all the advances and statewide legal acceptance over recent years, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has not approved marijuana for medical use, and the DEA still lists marijuana as a Schedule 1 narcotic drug. While in 2021 there is proposed legislation to change the status of cannabis, it is still classified as a serious drug.

As you might expect, health insurance companies are not going to cover an illegal substance. So even though many state governments have legalized medical cannabis within their jurisdictions, insurance cannot cover marijuana usage as long as it is considered illegal on a federal level.  The main reason for the drug remaining on this “disapproved” list is not enough properly executed clinical research. Insurance companies would look for additional testing over multiple clinical trials and double-blind studies to change their position on coverage.  

The government establishment has long claimed that it is not possible to perform large-scale clinical trials. The many strains and varieties available make it difficult to control the trials. Therefore, insurance companies do not have any current interest in providing coverage for medical cannabis. As an extension of this policy, dispensaries also do not have contracts with insurance companies. 

Does Insurance Cover CBD Oil

Cannabidiol (CBD) is increasingly gaining popularity, with products from skincare to sleep aids. While you can easily find products that contain CBD, its legal status is still a bit of a gray area. Federal and state laws differ on details such as who can produce, buy, or sell it. 

However, similar to the Food and Drug Administration’s non-approval of medical cannabis, the agency has not approved CBD for medicinal use. Therefore, most insurance won’t cover CBD oil or CBD products.

Health Savings Accounts and Flexible Spending Accounts

You can utilize health Savings Accounts (HSA) and Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) to pay for many health-related expenses that insurance doesn’t cover, such as copays and over-the-counter medicine. However, for the HSA or FSA to reimburse for an item, it must be on a list of qualified expenses. Medical marijuana can’t be included in this list for the reasons stated above.

What Can Be Done? 

As mentioned above, the U.S. Congress is currently considering legislation to change the classification of medical cannabis. The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act was put forward in July 2021 and must be considered by the end of 2021. The bill looks to erase federal penalties for cannabis, eliminate criminal records for non-violent offenders of federal marijuana laws, set aside funds for restorative justice programs, and set a tax rate for the sale of cannabis. The bill is expected to pass the House, but a fight is likely in the Senate. Pundits are unclear as to President Biden’s stance on the issue. 

More studies and trials are taking place as of this writing. Cannabis advocates continue to fight for the removal of cannabis from the Schedule 1 list. As the evidence mounts as to the effectiveness of cannabis against a myriad of conditions, we look forward to the day when cannabis becomes fully federally approved – and thus can be officially covered by medical insurance plans. 

Learn More From an Expert

If you are interested in learning more about medical cannabis for your treatment, call the Sarasota offices of Neurology of Cannabis. Dr. Daniel P. Stein will consult with you about the appropriateness of medical marijuana for your treatment and assist you in obtaining your medical marijuana card. Contact our clinic to schedule a consultation at (941) 909-3885