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Seniors: Your Complete Guide to Affordable Marijuana without Medicare

Every month, senior citizens across the country eagerly wait for their Social Security checks to arrive in the mail. Unfortunately, social security checks never go far enough. This leaves seniors with a heavy decision to make: Should they get their low-cost prescription medications at the pharmacy or buy medical marijuana instead? More often than not, and with great reluctance, Baby Boomers choose prescription meds over weed simply because they cost less than with Medicare or other insurance coverage. To this day, neither Medicare nor any other insurance company will pay for your weed.

As a senior citizen, I can walk into any CVS or other pharmacy with a prescription in hand and walk out with a bag full of controlled substances at zero or reduced cost. But if I buy medical marijuana instead, which is safer and without the side effects of FDA-approved narcotics, I have to spend $100+ out of pocket every week for the privilege. 

I am a firm believer that on your 60th birthday, Medicare should hand every American a birthday card along with a medical marijuana card. The vast majority of retired Americans live on a low or restricted income and must budget accordingly for their medical needs. We are a unique breed that used to smoke pot for fun back in the hippie era. Today, we consume marijuana seeking overall health and wellness. For many of us, it’s like going back to simpler days. But don’t look to Big Pharma for help because currently, no health insurance company, including Medicare, offers coverage to people who need medical marijuana most.  

So, what is the solution? In this blog, we’ll explore what Medicare and insurance companies are doing about cannabis coverage for seniors and other folks who need it most. We’ll show you ways that you can save money at the dispensary without Medicare. Plus, key steps you can take now right now to find affordable, quality cannabis without the high price tag.

Reasons Why Insurers Won’t Pay for Cannabis

Those of us who have studied the history of marijuana know that cannabis-infused products were not always illegal or taboo. The plant was a legitimate medicine in earlier centuries, and over-the-counter no less. It has gone from being legal to illegal and now to legal again, but with restrictions. 

The reasons why Medicare will not pay for medical marijuana are solid and clear-cut:

  • Presently, the Controlled Substances Act classifies marijuana as a Schedule I narcotic, along with heroin, benzos, and opioids. So, because it is still illegal to possess marijuana, Medicare will not pay. 
  • The Federal Drug Administration has not yet approved marijuana as a drug. This is the second biggest hurdle seniors have to deal with before there is ever legalization. As a result, insurers won’t pay for your marijuana, even if you are in a legal state.
  • Cannabis consumers may face other challenges like worker’s compensation and pre-employment drug screenings. Additionally, obtaining car insurance may be difficult because, at this moment, there is no way to test drivers for marijuana impairment.
  • And then there is that stigma thing. Some insurers hesitate to cover medical weed patients because it doesn’t necessarily reflect a wholesome, wellness image on their company.

To say that the demand for medical marijuana in the last ten years has increased is an understatement. With more seniors jumping into the cannabis bandwagon, a market for top-quality pot at affordable prices is sorely needed, especially for the elderly demographic.

Why Medicare Won’t Pay for Your CBD 

There are many ways to consume cannabis besides smoking it. Senior citizens typically prefer more traditional ways to consume their marijuana-infused medications, such as CBD capsules, infused gummies, and balms for aching joints. You can even add it to your food to enjoy with your meals.

You may be wondering why CBD products are not FDA-approved, given that they are non intoxicating. That’s because the FDA has not approved CBD since it is a derivative of the marijuana plant. Keep the following important information in mind the next time you purchase CBD:

  • It is currently illegal to market CBD by adding it to a food or labeling it as a dietary supplement.
  • The FDA has seen only limited data about CBD safety and suggests exercising caution before taking CBD.
  • Some CBD products are being marketed with unproven medical claims and are of questionable quality.

Always exercise caution when purchasing both THC / CBD products, and consult with your primary doctor about your interest in marijuana as a medication.

Can Seniors File a Medicare Claim for Marijuana?

Sorry, but no. The only way you can obtain legal marijuana today, be it medical or recreational, is at a licensed local or online dispensary. But don’t expect Medicare to pay for it. You’ll have to fork over your own cash to purchase because, as of this date, Medicare is not interested in adding cannabis to its formulary. 

More research and clinical trials are needed to confirm the efficacy and safety of smoking pot and consuming cannabis-infused therapeutics to relieve age-related issues that many seniors experience.

But don’t you worry, we got you covered. In the next section, we’ll show you ways that will save you a bundle at the dispensary. 

7 Ways Seniors Can Save on Marijuana Without Medicare

Medicare and other insurers will not cover your pot at the dispensary, leaving senior citizens in a tough spot. So we must stay informed and seek out alternative ways to get legal cannabis that we can afford. If you need reduced-cost medical cannabis now, here’s what you can do:

Get a Medical Prescription for THC / CBD Medication

As of this writing, the FDA-approved has approved three drugs containing the same chemical compounds as THC/CBD. You can get them with a medical doctor’s prescription:

  • Dronabinol, also known as Marinol
  • Nabilone, also is called Cesamet
  • Epidiolex (CBD)

Dronabinol and Nabilone are used for relief from nausea and vomiting during chemotherapy. Dronabinol can also alleviate folks living with AIDS to improve appetite. Epidiolex, made from CBD, helps reduce seizures. However, all of these drugs are the last resort and prescribed only in rare cases when other medications were unsuccessful.

Presently, most Medicare drug plans have their own list of drugs they cover called a formulary, and cannabis is not on it. Medicare and other insurers will only pay for medication on their formulary like those listed above. It will not pay for your medical weed or any other marijuana product that is not FDA-approved.

Take Advantage of Senior Discounts at the Dispensary 

Many dispensaries offer a Senior Discount, usually 10%, so before you fork over your cash, ask your budtender. Also, ask if they are participating in a Compassionate Care Program offered to those who are in need. We will talk more about the CCP in a later section.

Reduce Your Medical Cannabis Registration Fees

Some states reduce their medical marijuana registration fee for seniors with low incomes and government assistance. Make sure you register with your state’s medical marijuana program to get a patient card and save 10% because medical weed costs less than recreational. Seniors may also qualify for a tax exemption, allowing us not to pay state taxes at a recreational store.

Find a Marijuana Dispensary That Understands Your Needs 

Shop around! Just like you try on many pairs of shoes before finding the perfect pair, dispensaries are no different. So smart-shop. Check out all the dispensaries in your area. Compare prices before making your purchase. Sooner or later, you’ll find the marijuana store that supports your needs as well as your budget.

Grow Cannabis Plants at Home for Personal Use

If you have a green thumb, or even if you don’t, you may consider growing your own cannabis plant(s) at home. 

A Southern California seniors’ community recently took matters into their own hands. It started cultivating marijuana plants and distributing the buds among other residents who were in pain. 

If you live in a state where you can grow your cannabis, you may never need to go to a dispensary again. However, keep in mind that growing cannabis is no easy task. It requires diligence, skill, and special equipment that can be expensive.

For the most up-to-date home growing regulations by state, visit NORML’s State Laws page, Marijuana Policy Project’s State Policy page, or NCIA’s State-by-State Policies page.

Avoid Expensive Products at the Marijuana Dispensary

Watch out for those marketing gimmicks at the weed store. Unless your doctor specifically recommends it, you don’t need those costly items like bongs, vape pens, concentrates, or extracts. Patients and physicians alike recommend vaporizing the plant in small doses using a convection device like Volcano Vaporizer. This method of inhalation is clean and straightforward and an ideal method of consumption, particularly for seniors. However, the Volcano is a high-end vaporizer with a high price tag. If you can’t afford it, there are other comparable vaporizers worth checking out.

Vaporizing flower is fast-acting, reliable, and effective. Add to that a THC capsule or other edible throughout the day, and that should take care of your medical needs without burning a hole in your wallet. Be sure to consult with your primary doctor for guidance and support.

Talk to a Medical Marijuana Specialist for Guidance 

Some senior citizens feel more comfortable talking with a medical cannabis specialist. A medical cannabis specialist or cannabis clinician is someone who has studied the endocannabinoid system in depth. They can get you started in the right direction and may even save you time and money in the long run, preventing you from buying things you don’t need. Take a look at the Association of Cannabis Specialists and the Society of Cannabis Clinicians, two excellent resources for locating a cannabis clinician near you.

Are there ANY Insurance Plans that Cover Marijuana?

At the moment, there are no health insurance plans that cover your medical weed. Clinical trials and research are sorely needed to authenticate the efficacy and safety of partaking in pot and cannabis therapeutics for treatment common to seniors. 

Medicare complies with federal law, therefore, they will not pay for your cannabis either.

You can, however, easily find insurance coverage for the cannabis industry, such as businesses that grow and cultivate marijuana. Dispensaries can readily find insurance coverage for their employees but not their medical marijuana patients.

What if You Still Can’t Pay for Your Medical Marijuana?

If you are a senior and are still struggling to afford your medical marijuana, register with a Compassionate Cannabis Program offered by select dispensaries that cater to the seniors’ needs. Bill SB34 makes it possible to donate legal weed free of charge to those in need. It brings high-quality marijuana to the terminally ill and poor for free. Ask your local dispensary if they participate in a compassionate cannabis program to receive your free cannabis. 

There is no reason why any senior citizen in this country, or anyone else for that matter, should do without the one medicine that makes them get through the day comfortably, without pain. The passing of Bill SB34 is just one door of the many that need to be opened before we can assist the destitute and suffering who cannot afford the medicine they need and deserve.

Don’t wait for the one medicine that can provide you with the relief you rightly deserve. The clock is ticking, act now!

What does the Future Hold for Seniors and Cannabis?

Seniors, if you want to make the switch from traditional drugs to medical marijuana, there has never been a better time to do it. It may take some research and perseverance on your part. Still, it is possible to get your hands on marijuana that’s safe and affordable and individually tailored to your needs.

Call your elected officials. Demand they do something about insuring medical marijuana for the elderly. Call Medicare and ask point-blank when are they going to give us senior citizens a break and pay for our much-needed medical marijuana.

It’s never too late. We’re not dead yet