Most people in the United States agree that medical cannabis is not only a human right that enables individuals to choose their method of treatment for various ailments, but that it is also a substantially better option for some patients. For example, a person suffering from chronic pain might choose medical cannabis over potentially addictive and dangerous opioid pharmaceuticals. And while all of that is certainly true, that doesn’t change one unpleasant reality of this arm of the industry: It’s often very expensive.
Those of us who live outside of areas where medical cannabis legally exists might not be aware of this, but the cost of being a patient using cannabis consists of more than just the cost of the products themselves. Annual renewal fees are necessary to remain a registered medical cannabis patient-and the price varies from state to state. On the low end we have California, where the renewal fee is $45 a year. On the higher side of the pricing spectrum, we’ve got Oregon-where patients have to pay a $200 application fee annually.
Though some states implement programs to help low-income residents afford these fees, they are still a frequent topic of conversation for residents who struggle financially.
Journalist Troy Farah candidly spoke of his own experiences as a medical cannabis patient with a chronic condition. He specified that he had to pay about $300 each and every year to maintain his status as a registered patient in the Arizona system. “Last August, I finally gave up and just went back to getting weed from the street. It sucked because instead of going to a store, I had to wait around for drug dealers or my friends to be available, they didn’t know the THC:CBD ratio or often even the strain name (not that they ever mean much anyway) but at least the cost was about the same.” he told ATTN , and his story is not a unique one.
For individuals who live in states with a recreational, adult-use cannabis market, it can be more financially sound for them to simply let their medical cannabis card lapse. Even though taxes on recreational cannabis are higher than that coming from the medical market, some patients find it less expensive than paying the annual fees. In some areas patients can grow their own supply, but this can be financially burdensome as well-or even impossible due to restrictions set forth by landlords or communal living homes.
Advocates for medical cannabis are urging insurance companies to treat cannabis as the legitimate medicine that it is and begin covering it under insurance plans. Unfortunately, this is unlikely to happen for as long as the United States’ federal government maintains its federal-level prohibition of the plant.