Cost of Medical Marijuana - Is it Worth it?
What’s the cost of medical marijuana and how does it compare to the cost of pharmaceuticals? Is it worth ditching your current remedy or source of relief? Cannabis has been considered a sacred medicine for hundreds of thousands of years. But banks and insurance companies today won’t cover the cost of medical marijuana.
While some might second-guess the legality of not covering a voter-approved, true-and-tried therapeutic treatment that you can’t overdose on, it’s a reality in our state, at least until federal restrictions are lifted. So what are you looking at in terms of the total cost of legal cannabis? How does it compare to other medicines? Are there any medical marijuana discounts? And what can you do to get the best deal on high-quality product?
Have you ever wondered why you can’t buy medical marijuana with a credit card? Or why insurance won’t cover the cost of medical marijuana either? This comes as a shock to many new patients today because medical cannabis is legal under Florida law and in 32 states (and counting) across the country. It’s also interesting that you can use a card and medical insurance to cover the cost of pharmaceuticals. BUT you have to pay out of pocket for a naturally-grown antidote that largely remains untainted by the market competition and skyrocketing expenses seen in Big Pharma today.
Cost of Pharmaceuticals vs. Medical Marijuana
When deciding whether it’s worth it to become a medical cannabis patient, it’s important to compare the cost of pharmaceuticals designed to treat the particular condition in question. This means considering the combined cost of medical insurance and your deductible for the specific tier of drug.
If you’re talking straight out-of-pocket expenses, the average annual out-of-pocket expenses patients with silver medical insurance plans paid for specialty pharmaceutical drugs last year was $6,449 for individuals and more than double for families. The annual out-of-pocket caps we’re more than twice these respective amounts for individuals and families with entry-level bronze insurance plans. In comparing those averages to the average cost of medical marijuana, the cost of pharmaceuticals is staggering.
For example, the average cost of a bottle of Risperidone, which is commonly used to treat schizophrenia, with 60, 0.25 mg tablets is about $63. To cure insomnia, the average cost of a 6, 5 mg tablets is about $76. A bottle of 10, 10 mg tablets of OxyContin for chronic pain is about $70. For 30, 500 mg capsules of Acetazolamide, which is used to remedy epilepsy, is about $110. A bottle of 30, 4 mg tablets of Zofran for the treatment of nausea costs about $736.
In comparison, marijuana is cheaper than other medicinal drugs in terms of both net and out-of-pocket costs. So it’s likely that the market cost of medical marijuana will progressively fall as awareness of the therapeutic benefits (and subsequent use) rises. There’s also no threshold to how high the pharmaceutical drugs can be offered at according to Harvard Medical School’s Lester Grinspoon, which isn’t the case in the medical cannabis industry.
Weed Dispensaries. The Next Big Pharma?
Florida’s MMJ market has rapidly expanding since the implementation of Amendment 2.
- The numbers of both active patients and dispensaries have nearly tripled,
- 63,896 as of Dec. 2017, to
- 159,107 as of Dec. 7, 2018
- 24 to 78 in the past year.
- Dispensaries sales are expected to total $200 million-$300 million in 2018, according to projections in the Marijuana Business Factbook 2018, up considerably from an estimated $20 million-$40 million in 2017.
The State of Florida runs a closed market, exercising tight control over the planting, cultivation, storage and distribution of cannabis. The cost of obtaining a dispensary license to grow and dispense marijuana can run in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. This cost prohibits the 'small-grow farmer' in the market. Competition is great for a limited number of licenses granted. The relatively few dispensaries practice in a monopolistic market, current pricing mmj consumers at generally higher prices than illegal weed. Since Floridians are not allowed to grow their own cannabis plants, they must purchase their legal weed from a dispensary, often at a higher price than that found on the streets. Until personal grows are allowed legally, dispensaries may indeed be morphing into the 'Big Pharma' of the marijuana industry.
Overview of the Net Cost of Market in Florida
While this is just a general estimate of the breakdown of the projected net cost charges, based on the average patient in the state of Florida, this should give you a good snapshot into what you may be looking at in terms of the total cost of medical marijuana:
1. Evaluation Visit with Qualified Doctor = $200 or more: which can be $185 or less with the right doctor.
2. Florida Registration Fee = $75
3. Cost of First-Time Treatment & Equipment = $20 to $300+
4. Delivery Costs = about $10 to $25 for each delivery fee
5. MMID Card Renewal Process & Fee = $75
6. Re-evaluation Doctor Visits = $145 for 210-day follow-up with the right doctor
7. Potential Charges for Unfortunate Situations = $0 (ideally, fingers crossed)
Detailed information on each of these 7 components can found in our Beginner’s Guide to Understanding Medical Marijuana Prices in Florida.
Taking Advantage of Marijuana Discounts & Sales
More often than not, dispensaries and cannabis distribution companies offer sales, seasonal campaigns and other marijuana discounts for buying in bulk or being a first-time customer, just like any other industry. Be sure to let them know you’re a first timer to their service when talking to distributors to see what kind of freebies and marijuana discounts they provide. CuraLeaf, a seed-to-sale-cannabis company, also has a loyalty rewards program in which you can earn points towards discounts by referring a patient, checking in to one of their dispensaries or being a first-time customer. It’s also important to keep your eye out for cannabis ordering doctors that provide discounted follow-up evaluation visits, recommendations for veterans and deals on refills.
So...is it worth it?
The net cost of cannabis as a medical product is cheaper than that of many drugs you can get at your local pharmacy, even without the marijuana discounts. That’s most likely because it’s grown straight from the ground, instead of in labs. The cannabis industry as a whole could be considered more on the “grassroots” level today because it isn’t as governed by Wall Street’s hold over conventional pharmaceutical drug options. Medical users also get tax breaks that recreational users aren’t entitled.
Experience & Satisfaction.
Beyond the financial benefits and bottom-line factors of getting medical marijuana as opposed to a recreational or pharmaceutical alternative, is it still indeed worth it? When evaluating the overall cost of medical marijuana, there’s no denying the importance of the end-to-end experience and satisfaction you have during the prescription and procurement of medical cannabis compared to the cost of pharmaceuticals. After all, time is money, and stress and discomfort take a toll both mentally and physically. Cannabis doctors that also offer marijuana discounts and/or give you 100% of you money back if you don’t qualify for some reason is always a plus.
The House also just overwhelmingly approved the U.S. Farm Bill that’s already been passed in the Senate. As we’ve seen throughout history, change leads to backlash and oftentimes progress in turn. This is certainly true for the passing of the Farm Bill. In fact, the legalization of the planting and harvesting of hemp—a critical source of CBD commonly touted as a miracle, cannabis-derived medicine—is poised to lead to increasingly cheaper strains of medical THC and CBD in all forms. What’s more, as medical cannabis uptake and education increases, the overall cost of medical marijuana is anticipated to decrease exponentially. It’s difficult to deny the effect (and power) of supply and demand coupled with some friendly competition, after all.
Looking for more information on medical marijuana prices in Florida? How to become a Legal Cannabis Patient. Is the overall cost worth it compared to other remedies? Check out our article "5 Things You Need to Know about Medical Marijuana in Florida".