Dr. Tom Arneson, research manager at the MDH, was interviewed after recent survey results relating to the Minnesota medical marijuana program were released. He highlighted the fact that most users of medical marijuana that were surveyed (approximately 250 out of 1400) indicated substantial benefits from the drug. Despite such positive subjective reporting, the issue of cost was front and center. Apparently, three-quarters of the survey respondents indicated problems with the costliness of the drug. Dr. Arneson indicated that “It is expensive and unaffordable for many parts of our population.”
The assumption that medical marijuana is effective pervades the popular reporting. The theme seems to be that marijuana, when sold by a dispenser, is “medical” and that its legitimacy and efficacy are established by virtue of its acceptance within a subset of the population. Despite the popular image and perception, no clinical trials have been performed and the FDA has not approved any of marijuana’s psychoactive components for market consumption. Accordingly, in a separate local publication, Dr. Arneson was also quoted as having said “This was certainly not a clinical trial. It can’t answer questions about effectiveness.” He also admitted that the controls necessary to actually assess efficacy are not in place. “How much of this is the placebo factor, we don’t know, although it’s probably quite a bit of it,” said Dr. Arneson.
A great weight is placed on the consumer perception of the efficacy of medical marijuana. That weight serves as the basis for asserting that the costs are unjustified. This logic will lead to only one conclusion: the cost must be shifted. Already, interested parties are concerned with getting payers into the game so that medical marijuana can become more widespread in its acceptance and usage. For example, the CEO of the up-coming dispensary in Moorhead, Minnesota was interviewed about the cost in relation to opiates and the unfair advantage that insurance coverage provides.
As of this moment, marijuana is still a Schedule 1 drug per federal law. It is illegal for insurance companies (subject to federal regulation) to pay for its prescription. That having been said, many are watching closely to see what changes may be ahead. For any questions about medical marijuana in workers compensation or other medical benefits, please feel free to call or e-mail any one of our many experienced attorneys – www.HansenDordell.com / 651-482-8900.
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