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|
|Michigan||$100||—||$25 for qualifying Medicaid patients or recipients of SSD or SSI benefits|
|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