Though 33 states in the US have legalized medical and recreational marijuana, not everyone has open access to it.
Medical cards are used to get subsidized rates on medicines and over the counter drugs. If you’re thinking of getting a special medical card for marijuana, or already have one and want to know how it will affect your finances, read on. We focus on all you need to know about medical marijuana cards and how they may impact your life.
What Happens When You Get A Medical Card?
Getting a medical marijuana card is a life-changer for many people with severe chronic illnesses. The state-issued card makes it very easy for people to obtain this drug vital for managing their symptoms. What happens when you get a medical card depends on which state you are in and how you are using it. There are pros and cons of having a medical card for marijuana use.
Benefits Of Having A Medical Card
Research has shown that marijuana significantly helps people with seizures, muscle stiffness, nausea, vomiting, and diseases like epilepsy and Alzheimer’s. The pros of having a medical card are listed below:
- Legal Protection: A medical card in states which have legalized marijuana use for medicine only can save you from fines and possible jail time. The possession of marijuana is a federal offense and if you have an accident while you are on medication, you can be charged with driving under influence. If you have a medical card, your felony can be tried as a misdemeanor instead.
- Subsidized Cost: Medical marijuana and recreational marijuana is sold at different rates within each state, with recreational marijuana being more costly than its medicinal counterpart. Having a medical card can cut your costs significantly for purchasing the drug. For instance, the drug Epidiolex that is derived from the marijuana plant can cost $2500 per month to the average patient. If you have a medical card, you can purchase it at a much lower cost.
- Increased Potency and Limits: States that have legalized marijuana have also set different limits on recreational and medical marijuana. If you possess a medical card, you are able to get tablets and oils with a higher level of the most common active ingredient in medical weed i.e delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. This means that you get to save money on buying more pills to make up for your required dosage by getting the same amount of dosage more concentrated in fewer pills. You can also purchase higher doses for medicinal purposes with a card than you can for recreational purposes.
- Possession Limits: When you have a medical card for marijuana, you are allowed to legally possess a higher amount of the drug than if you were only using it for recreation purposes. For instance, in California, medical cardholders can have up to 8 ounces of the drug on their person at any time. If a recreational user is arrested with the same amount, he can face serious criminal charges as recreational users are only allowed to carry 1 ounce on themselves at any time.
- Increased Age Limits: In states where the drug is allowed for recreational as well as medical uses, the minimum age limit to get the card is 21. In contrast, states which have only certified medicinal use of the drug allow cardholders to be as young as 18.
- Increased Plant Growing Limit: Some states that have legalized the use of marijuana have also legalized its conditional growth and production by verified users. For instance, a recreational user can grow up to 6 plants at their residence in California but a medical cardholder will be allowed to grow up to 99 plants in the same state.
While medical cardholders enjoy many benefits, there may be certain downsides to having a medical card.
Reasons Not To Get A Medical Card
Medical marijuana users may have a hard time enjoying some of the benefits that otherwise would be available to them. The cons of having a medical card include:
- Prohibited From Firearms: Medical marijuana users are not legally allowed to own firearms. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) has ruled that individuals suffering from diseases that require them to use cannabis are not eligible to own firearms because of their medical conditions. However, some states, like Pennsylvania, do not make their medical cardholders registry available to the state’s law enforcement agencies. Hence, you could check your state’s laws to see if you can bypass the state laws by responsibly owning a firearm, though you should avoid this as it will not be considered legal!
- Declined Jobs: Marijuana is still illegal on the federal level. This means that even if you have a medical card, employees may have a hard time giving you a job. Government offices have a zero-tolerance policy towards medical marijuana users and a positive test will lead to certain job termination. Employees consider marijuana users a risk for their company.
- Declined Commercial Driver’s License: The Department of Transportation has a strict ban on marijuana users. Even if you have a medical card, you will not be granted a driver’s license. This is to avoid accidents by drivers with serious medical conditions.
- Problems For Students: Many schools refuse to administer medical marijuana on school premises to students even if they have a medical card because it is illegal on the federal level. Sometimes a student may be asked to administer the medicine off the school premises and come back when the substance leaves their system. This is close to impossible, as marijuana can take up to several days to completely leave the body.
There can be other implications of marijuana use as well.
Does Having A Medical Card Affect Your Job?
Having a medical card can affect your job, but it also depends on the state you are working in. Some states include protections for employees who use marijuana when not at work and according to a doctor’s prescription. In other states, employees have a hard time giving work to individuals who take marijuana, even medicinally. These individuals can be held more responsible for causing accidents given their medical conditions and drug use. That can lead to paying off employee claims and possible lawsuits. Hence, most employees may not feel legally bound under state laws to fire someone who is in the practice of using a federally banned drug.
Does Having A Medical Card Affect Your Health Insurance?
One of the key factors of health insurance is whether you are a smoker or not. Under the Affordable Care Act, health insurance rates can go as high as 50% for smokers in certain states. The insurance provider will ask you how often you need to take the marijuana for your condition and how do you take it. If they qualify you as an occasional user of marijuana, you will be categorized as a non-smoker and get regular health insurance rates. The criteria to determine what constitutes ‘occasional use’ differs from one insurance company to the other. You may, under certain carriers and states, qualify for FDA approved cannabinoid drugs too.
Does Having A Medical Card Affect Your Life Insurance?
Having a medical card will have little to no effect on your ability to get life insurance. This is because a medical card authorizes your use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, which is still illegal in many states. Hence, insurance companies are rarely concerned with whether you are taking marijuana recreationally or medicinally. In fact, your use of medical marijuana may lead to the company investigating your underlying medical condition. The rate for your life insurance will increase if you use marijuana for a more serious condition like epilepsy. On the other hand, the life insurance provider will be much less concerned if it is for occasional insomnia and offer you better rates. In general, the serious the underlying condition, the higher the risk, and the higher the life insurance quote.
Does Medicaid Pay For Medical Marijuana?
Medicaid and Medicare follow federal laws. Hence both Medicaid and Medicare will in general not pay for medical marijuana, as it is still illegal under federal laws. However, Medicare PArt C and D that provides extra insurance in areas like vision care, dental care, and some prescription drugs can be used to get insurance for cannabinoid medications that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Only two such medications exist – dronabinol (Marinol, Syndros) and Epidiolex. Contact your insurance provider to check which medications are covered by your plan.
What We Have Discussed
A medical card cannot only affect your life insurance, but it can also impact your job and other insurances. State laws are updating and evolving to grant more inclusion to people who are dependant upon this drug for living healthy and happy lives. If you need it for conditions that cannot be resolved with conventional drugs, make sure to check your state laws to see how having a medical card will impact your life.