If you live in a state where marijuana use has been legalized, it’s tempting to assume that your health insurance will cover marijuana like other drugs prescribed by your healthcare provider.
Federally, cannabis (another name for marijuana) remains a controlled substance. It’s illegal to possess or use the drug under federal law. However, individual states have passed laws allowing distribution and sale within their state boundaries.
So, health insurance won’t pay for medical marijuana even in states where its use has been legalized.
Also, it won’t cover medical marijuana because it’s considered a Schedule I controlled substance. In fact, doctors can’t even legally prescribe it.
They usually suggest medical marijuana to treat symptoms like pain, nausea, and seizures.
So, read on to know more about if health insurance covers medical marijuana and if it’s legal.
Table of contents
- How Harmful is Marijuana?
- Can Someone Get Chronic Illnesses From Taking Marijuana?
- Does Health Insurance Cover Medical Marijuana: Is Marijuana Legal?
- Does Health Insurance Cover Medical Marijuana?
How Harmful is Marijuana?
Marijuana is detrimental to physical health. Although free of nicotine, marijuana smoke certainly pollutes the lungs.
Marijuana has mind-altering compounds that affect both your brain and body. It can be addictive, and it may be harmful to some people’s health.
Here’s what can happen when you use marijuana:
#1. You Can Get “High”
It’s why most people try pot. The main psychoactive ingredient, THC, stimulates the part of your brain that responds to pleasure, like food and sex. That unleashes a chemical called dopamine, which gives you a euphoric, relaxed feeling.
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#2. It May Affects Your Mental Health
Not everyone’s experience with marijuana is pleasant. It often can leave you anxious, afraid, or panicked. Using pot may raise your chances for clinical depression or worsen the symptoms of any mental disorders you already have.
#3. Your Thinking May Get Distorted
Marijuana can cloud your senses and judgment. The effects can differ depending on things like how potent your pot was, how you took it, and how much marijuana you’ve used in the past. It might:
- Heighten your senses (colors might seem brighter and sounds might seem louder)
- Distort your sense of time
- Hurt your motor skills and make driving more dangerous
- Lower your inhibitions so you may have risky sex or take other chances.
- Regular users are more likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia, especially when they have a family history of the condition.
Other Health Effects
Marijuana can have effects beyond the lungs and brain. These include:
- Fast heart rate
- Increased risk of heart attack (within the first hour after smoking)
- Suicidal thoughts in teens
Can Someone Get Chronic Illnesses From Taking Marijuana?
Yes, one can get chronic illnesses from Taking Marijuana. One of such illness is Cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS) is a condition that leads to repeated and severe bouts of vomiting. It is rare and only occurs in daily long-term users of marijuana.
This drug has very complex effects on the body. In the brain, marijuana often has the opposite effect of CHS. It helps prevent nausea and vomiting. The drug is also good at stopping such symptoms in people having chemotherapy.
But in the digestive tract, marijuana seems to have the opposite effect. It actually makes you more likely to have nausea and vomiting.
With the first use of marijuana, the signals from the brain may be more important. That may lead to anti-nausea effects at first.
But with repeated use of marijuana, certain receptors in the brain may stop responding to the drug in the same way. That may cause the repeated bouts of vomiting found in people with CHS.
However, it still isn’t clear why some heavy marijuana users get the syndrome, but others don’t.
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Smoked marijuana, regardless of how it is smoked, can harm lung tissues and cause scarring and damage to small blood vessels.
Smoke from marijuana has many of the same toxins, irritants, and carcinogens (cancer-causing chemicals) as tobacco smoke.
Smoking marijuana can also lead to a greater risk of bronchitis, cough, and mucus production, though these symptoms generally improve when marijuana smokers quit.
Marijuana use, especially frequently (daily or nearly daily) and in high doses, can cause disorientation and sometimes unpleasant thoughts or feelings of anxiety and paranoia.1
People who use marijuana are more likely to develop temporary psychosis (not knowing what is real, hallucinations, and paranoia) and long-lasting mental disorders, including schizophrenia (a type of mental illness where people might see or hear things that are not really there).
Marijuana use has also been linked to depression; social anxiety; and thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts, and suicide.
Marijuana use directly affects brain function — specifically the parts of the brain responsible for memory, learning, attention, decision-making, coordination, emotions, and reaction time.
Habitual Marijuana Use On The Immune System
Smoking marijuana regularly (a joint a day) can damage the cells in the bronchial passages which protect the body against inhaled microorganisms and decrease the ability of the immune cells in the lungs to fight off fungi, bacteria, and tumor cells.
For patients with already weakened immune systems, this means an increase in the possibility of dangerous pulmonary infections, including pneumonia, which often proves fatal in AIDS patients.
Does Health Insurance Cover Medical Marijuana: Is Marijuana Legal?
Yes, it is, but not all states. Today, support for marijuana legalization has become mainstream among Democratic politicians, and some Republicans also back the idea.
State legislatures are grappling with if and how to legalize the drug, while several marijuana-related bills – including those aiming to decriminalize it on the federal level – have been introduced in Congress.
Opponents say marijuana poses a public health and safety risk, and some are morally against legalization.
Proponents, however, argue that it is not as dangerous as alcohol and point to evidence that it has therapeutic benefits, such as stress and pain relief.
Advocates also see it as a moneymaker for states and a necessary social justice initiative. Marijuana laws have disproportionately affected people from minority communities, contributing to mass incarceration.
States where the drug is legal to have sought to retroactively address the consequences of marijuana prohibition, often including provisions allowing for the expungement or vacation of low-level marijuana convictions.
Here are states where marijuana is legal.
- Washington, D.C.
- New Jersey
- South Dakota (a legalization measure was approved but is pending a lawsuit)
- New York
- New Mexico
Does Health Insurance Cover Medical Marijuana?
Health insurance doesn’t cover medical marijuana, but it does cover some FDA-approved drugs containing synthetic weed. A lot of questions come up when you consider using medical marijuana to relieve pain or treat a condition.
Health insurers in the United States won’t pay for anything that’s technically illegal.
Most health insurance policies include an illegal acts exclusion saying that health issues occurring due to or in association with your voluntary involvement in an illegal act are not covered (some states limit or prohibit these sorts of exclusions).
Even though medical marijuana has most likely been legalized in the state where you live, it’s still classified by the federal government as a schedule I controlled substance as defined by the Controlled Substances Act. It’s still illegal to use marijuana in terms of federal law.
In addition to health plan illegal acts exclusion clauses, another issue arises due to marijuana’s Schedule I designation. Schedule I controlled substances can’t be prescribed by healthcare providers the way other medications are.
Health insurance doesn’t cover marijuana because it’s illegal and not approved by the FDA. However, Medicare may pay for cannabinoid-based medications.
You must obtain a medical marijuana card before you can buy cannabis products, even in states where it’s available recreationally. A medical marijuana card may provide you with discounts.
If you’re curious whether medical marijuana is an option for you, talk with your doctor. Together you can review your symptoms and look for alternatives if your doctor doesn’t think cannabis products are the right choice for you.
- Healthline – Does Medicare Cover Medical Marijuana?
- WebMD – Is Marijuana Safe?
- CDC – Health Effects of Marijuana
- USNews – Where Is Marijuana Legal? A Guide to Marijuana Legalization
- WebMD – How Pot Affects Your Mind and Body
- Verywellhealth – Why Health Insurance Won’t Pay for Medical Marijuana