How much does it cost to get a medical marijuana card? - NerdWallet

How much does it cost to get a medical marijuana card?

Cost of medical marijuana

Your first association with marijuana might be an illegal substance used for recreational purposes, but for as many as 1.5 million people in the U.S. marijuana is a legal means of treating their ailments. California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana use via Proposition 215 in 1996. Since then 17 other states have followed suit, spelling out their own terms for who can and cannot use the legalized drug, how they can obtain or grow it, and how much it costs them to do so. Most states authorize users by issuing them a card.

States have made it legal for physicians to prescribe medical marijuana from conditions ranging from arthritis to stuttering, for psychological disorders like anxiety and PTSD, and for the symptoms of nausea and sleeplessness that often accompany cancer treatments, among others. Some states have a legal medical marijuana law, but make it illegal to obtain the drug—making the law essentially a way to avoid prosecuting certain authorized people, like cancer patients, found in possession of marijuana. These states often have a very small number of people who have obtained state authorization. Connecticut recently became the eighteenth state to legalize it, but won’t start authorizing patients until October, 2012.

But how much does it cost for qualifying patients to make use of their state’s authorization process? The chart below breaks down the costs for a first time applicant in states with some of the most used and established legal medical marijuana programs. But there are many other costs involved – for instance, most states require a doctor’s official recommendation. The doctor visit to get that recommendation might be covered by a health insurance policy, but it also might require seeking out a provider who is willing to recommend marijuana as a treatment option, which could easily mean going outside of the approved provider network. Also, if part of that doctor visit involves obtaining a new diagnosis that a patient didn’t have before, it could mean their cost of coverage would go up. Beyond that, most states charge a renewal fee annually, and for some without dispensaries, patients must grow their own marijuana and pay separate licensing fees, or find some other means of obtaining the drug. And that’s all just to get the card. The cost of the medical marijuana itself also varies widely, and is not covered by health insurance.

  State cost of Application Additional Application Fees Discount/Reductions
Arizona $150 $75 for qualifying members of SNAP (food stamps)
California $66 Fees vary by county $33 for patients enrolled in Medi-Cal (California’s Medicaid public insurance program)
Colorado $35 Cost can be waived for applicants below the Federal poverty line
Hawaii $25
Maine No cost
Michigan $100 $25 for qualifying Medicaid patients or recipients of SSD or SSI benefits
Montana $75
Nevada $150 $50 application fee, $4-20 fingerprinting fee, $11-22 card making fee
Oregon $200 $100 for SNAP (food stamps) and for OHP (Oregon Health Plan) cardholders, $20 for recipients of SSI benefits

Chart shows application costs, addition fees and discounts/reductions in price for a patient applying for a state medical marijuana card for the first time in states with widely used medical marijuana programs.

 

Medical marijuana image via Shutterstock

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  • Tony

    I am a little confused. Are Starwood points worth 1.25 cents per point or is is 1.25 points per cent.

    • http://www.nerdwallet.com Tim

      Hi Tony,
      You get a 5,000 mile bonus when you transfer 20,000 Starpoints to most domestic airlines. This is why we believe a Starpoint is worth 1.25 airline miles. Therefore if you assume an airline mile is worth 1 cent, a Starpoint is worth about 1.25 cents.

      However, redemption options at hotels are even better, therefore NerdWallet estimates a Starpoint to be worth 1.5 cents.

      • nerdwallet

        Update: We dug down a bit deeper and have determined these points to be worth closer to 2.3 cents on average

      • Sun W. Kim

        I guess I also like to think of points as the real-world cash value. To me, the value of the card is based on what kind of cash I can retrieve using a different credit card. Does anyone else see it this way? I know it complicates the matter, but to compare Starpoints to what the hotel charges seems to exclude the “real-world” value of those points.

        When I book a Starwood hotel for 10k points, I think of it as spending $100 USD based on having reward cards that give 1% back. Now, if I had a Perk Street debit rewards card that gives 2% back, I think of spending 10k point on Starwood as costing me $200 USD.

        • Franco Bijoux

          Hi…does anyone knows how many Starwood points doIi need to travel to Madrid, Spain. Also
          if I didn’t have sufficient points can I use points and cash. Thanks

  • Nick G

    I’ve had this card for years, and I don’t think much has changed — it’s still the best points card anywhere. While the cash cost of Starwoods Hotel rooms has gone down slightly, this might push hotel night redemption from 3-4 cents to maybe 2.5-3.5 cents, not much lower as indicated above. 3 of the last 4 hotel bookings I’ve done using the card were over 3 cents per point, based on the published cash rate for the room.

    Best points card available…. if you like Starwood Hotels.

  • http://www.boardingarea.com/blogs/loyaltytraveler Ric Garrido

    I do not really understand your graph and statement : "As a general rule of thumb, the more expensive the hotel room, the more points tend to be worth."

    How does this relate to SPG hotel reward categories?

    In my numerous analyses of Starwood Hotels, I generally find the more expensive the hotel's average rate, the higher the reward category.

    Starwood Hotels in the high category 6 (20,000 points for a free night) and category 7 (30,000 points for a free night) generally reduce the value of points compared to redeeming points for a category 2 weekend night (3,000 points per night) or a category 3 hotel (7000 points per night).

  • LCS

    I think the statement about expiration is a little misleading. As long as you’re a cardmemember (with an annual fee), the points don’t expire. But if you’re no longer a cardmember and you don’t have a paid stay at a Starwood hotel, you get deactivated and your points disappear. So if you cancel the card and then wait a year before planning to redeem the points, they might not be there anymore. That happened to me and SPG did replace them after I called, but I think that’s a critical point. Other activity, such as redeeming for airline miles or buying something from a partner (which isn’t much of an option with SPG anway) doesn’t save the miles, it has to be a paid hotel stay at least once a year to keep you active if you don’t have the credit card.

    • http://www.nerdwallet.com/ Tim

      Thanks for the note LCS. According to Starwood’s and AmEx’s terms and conditions, points don’t expire as long as you have any SPG account activity within a 12 month period. So it has more to do with whether you are still an active SPG member, not on whether you still have a Starwood credit card.
      How long ago did you have this problem? Maybe the terms have changed since?

      I’m glad to hear they made you whole once you pointed out the issue.

      • LCS

        This was a few years ago, but it’s still the rule. You’re right, it’s in the terms for being an active SPG member, where you have to have a paid hotel stay once a year for your points to not be deleted, unless you are an SPG AmEx cardholder. Here’s the text from the T&C: “You will be considered an “Active Member” so long as (a) your Membership has not been cancelled (by you or us), and (b) you have had an Eligible Stay at a Participating Property within the previous 12 months, or (c) you have earned Starpoints by using a Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card during the previous 12 months. Starpoints resulting from transfers or earnings from Program affiliates do not count toward active status.”

        So effectively, you have to stay a cardmember (w/annual fee) or have at least one paid hotel stay per year to keep your points. To me, that devalues the points compared to other programs that have free ways of maintaining active status, such as Hilton HHonors (through the shopping mall, any other partner, donating points to charity, or the Citibank HHonors card that has no annual fee). SPG doesn’t allow any free way of maintaining your status, since point redemption doesn’t count (has to be an eligible, i.e., paid,s stay).

        • http://www.nerdwallet.com/ Tim

          Hm, good to know!

  • das

    Your estimate of the value of a Starwood point for hotel redemption seems too low, and I suspect it’s because you have neglected the “cash & points” redemption option, which is by far the most efficient redemption option. For instance, I just used cash & points to stay at Le Meridien in Philadelphia, which is a category 4 hotel that would have cost $229 + taxes/fees (total of approx. $269), for $60 and 4000 Starpoints. When you back out the cash, you see that I netted about 5 cents per point, and this is typical of a cash & points redemption. Since you haven’t explicitly addressed this option, I assume it has not been factored in to your calculations?

    • http://www.nerdwallet.com/ NerdWallet

      Hi there,
      Thanks for letting us know about the program! We ran the numbers on 9 hotels in the San Francisco and New York City areas, and found that redemption rates ran from 1 cent per point to 6 cents per point – so pretty much the same as other hotel redemption options, the value is contingent on how you use them. If you can find the highest dollar nightly rate in the same category, you’ll get a high redemption value. Generally (very generally), low categories (2-3) tended to deliver the highest redemption rate. But keep in mind that the points and cash option does have blackout dates.

      We’ll be sure to add this!

      • das

        Thanks for your quick response. That is true about the blackout dates, though I have found that black-out dates are few and far between. I have done quite a bit of reading about the cash & points option, and the overwhelming consensus seems to be that it is by far the best use of Starwoods points. That said, most of the articles out there are anecdotal (as was my post), so I’ll be very curious to see the value of each point quantified based upon your sampling. Great site, keep up the good work!

  • Starwood new user

    what kind of gift cards do you mention above? are these Star wood hotel gift cards only?

    • http://www.nerdwallet.com/ NerdWallet

      You can get gift cards at a number of retailers, including Amazon.com and Nordstrom’s.

      • Elliott D

        Where?

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  • Elliott D

    I still don’t understand how this “saves” anyone money. It’s contingent upon paying “face value” for hotel rooms that are overpriced…. even at a low rate of 100/night=2-600points…. you pay 100×4 get a night free = spent 400 dollars/5 nights or $80/ night. I can get 3 star and 4 star hotels on priceline for 45-60 dollars and never deal with points and still save money–while hand picking hotels out of 100’s of more choices with lots of real-time photos and reviews. Why would I participate? Buying spg points means 17.50 for 500 so…. 3,000p / 500…6 and 6 x 17.50 you just spent 105 a night on an average, no breakfast, pay amenities 3 star hotel. Why? Only 1100 properties to redeem from? Why? Cash+ points analysis: $60 + 4000 points= 165/night. Now, if I can buy 14,000 @ $150… and redeem them all at once that’d be 4 nights at a 3000 for 37.50/night…. Can I do that? Otherwise it’s really just about overpaying in the first place. I like spg hotels. I just don’t understand who participates in this that’s a not a business traveler.

  • Elliott D

    I still don’t understand how this “saves” anyone money. It’s contingent upon paying “face value” for hotel rooms that are overpriced…. even at a low rate of 100/night=2-600points…. you pay 100×4 get a night free = spent 400 dollars/5 nights or $80/ night. I can get 3 star and 4 star hotels on priceline for 45-60 dollars and never deal with points and still save money–while hand picking hotels out of 100’s of more choices with lots of real-time photos and reviews. Why would I participate? Buying spg points means 17.50 for 500 so…. 3,000p / 500…6 and 6 x 17.50 you just spent 105 a night on an average, no breakfast, pay amenities 3 star hotel. Why? Only 1100 properties to redeem from? Why? Cash+ points analysis: $60 + 4000 points= 165/night. Now, if I can buy 14,000 @ $150… and redeem them all at once that’d be 4 nights at a 3000 for 37.50/night…. Can I do that? Otherwise it’s really just about overpaying in the first place. I like spg hotels. I just don’t understand who participates in this that’s a not a business traveler.

  • Elliott D

    Why would I join this program? Math doesn’t pan out.

  • Elliott D

    Why would I join this program? Math doesn’t pan out.

  • Jerome

    Elliot – I have been participating in the program actively since 2010, and now i’m at the SPG Platinum-level. You certainly can find better “deals” online for cheap rooms, however I feel there has been a great value in the program.
    As Platinum100 i currently receive:
    – free upgrades at almost every hotel i check-in to – some are upgrades to a better room but in many circumstances i have received some of the best suites in that property
    – free premium wifi
    – complimentary breakfast (sometimes its full course western style, sometimes continental)
    – if i am travelling with friends & family they also do their best in upgrading their own room(s)
    – in many circumstances there are gifts of chocolates, wine, champagne, with a personalized note from a senior member of the hotel

    Also, you are able to redeem SPG points as “Cash & Points” for stays, you get the rooms at a reduced rate and the stay still counts towards your earnings status (same applies if you pay in full using points only). I dont know of another program that provides this benefit like SPG

    Furthermore, if you accumulate your points instead of cashing them in, you have the ability to use them in the SPG “Moments” program where you can redeem them for special concerts, sports events, and other activites for dirt cheap. For example, i redeemed 10,000 SPG points and was given a VIP tour of the Mercedes-Benz HQ in Stuttgart, along with 1 night stay at Le Meridien, catered lunch in the museum, as well as 1 hour on the Mercedes-Benz test track with a fleet of their vehicles. Last year, i redeemed 10,000 points for 2 VIP tickets to the Forumla 1 race in Montreal.

    Granted, this program may not be suitable to everyone however there are many benefits to be had, especially if you travel alot (irrespective if its for business or pleasure)

  • Jerome

    Elliot – I have been participating in the program actively since 2010, and now i’m at the SPG Platinum-level. You certainly can find better “deals” online for cheap rooms, however I feel there has been a great value in the program.
    As Platinum100 i currently receive:
    – free upgrades at almost every hotel i check-in to – some are upgrades to a better room but in many circumstances i have received some of the best suites in that property
    – free premium wifi
    – complimentary breakfast (sometimes its full course western style, sometimes continental)
    – if i am travelling with friends & family they also do their best in upgrading their own room(s)
    – in many circumstances there are gifts of chocolates, wine, champagne, with a personalized note from a senior member of the hotel

    Also, you are able to redeem SPG points as “Cash & Points” for stays, you get the rooms at a reduced rate and the stay still counts towards your earnings status (same applies if you pay in full using points only). I dont know of another program that provides this benefit like SPG

    Furthermore, if you accumulate your points instead of cashing them in, you have the ability to use them in the SPG “Moments” program where you can redeem them for special concerts, sports events, and other activites for dirt cheap. For example, i redeemed 10,000 SPG points and was given a VIP tour of the Mercedes-Benz HQ in Stuttgart, along with 1 night stay at Le Meridien, catered lunch in the museum, as well as 1 hour on the Mercedes-Benz test track with a fleet of their vehicles. Last year, i redeemed 10,000 points for 2 VIP tickets to the Forumla 1 race in Montreal.

    Granted, this program may not be suitable to everyone however there are many benefits to be had, especially if you travel alot (irrespective if its for business or pleasure)

  • Tim N

    Elliott, SPG has a “Best Rate Guarantee” that will either award you with a substantial amount of points just for FINDING a better rate or give you the better rate plus a percentage of the cost. The idea here is not to BUY Starpoints, it is to EARN them and then use them in the smartest and most valuable way. If you travel a lot (business or otherwise) you can understand this. But if you can find a 4-star hotel for cheaper than a motel 6, as stated above, than by all means…

  • Tim N

    Elliott, SPG has a “Best Rate Guarantee” that will either award you with a substantial amount of points just for FINDING a better rate or give you the better rate plus a percentage of the cost. The idea here is not to BUY Starpoints, it is to EARN them and then use them in the smartest and most valuable way. If you travel a lot (business or otherwise) you can understand this. But if you can find a 4-star hotel for cheaper than a motel 6, as stated above, than by all means…

  • Tyler S.

    WARNING: Despite their marketing, “free nights” do not apply to resorts. Even if you use a lot of points on these resorts, you still have to pay a mandatory nightly resort fee! Avoid if you’d like to use points on vacations, such as at the Westin Maui Resort.

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