An Honest Look at Insurers and Medical Marijuana Products

Alternative Medicine and Health Insurance

Alternative medicine is being seen with more of an open mind. But one class of medication isn’t moving forward yet  – medical marijuana products. States have come a long way on the road to legalization but there has been little progress getting health insurance coverage for it.

Before we go further, let’s first understand the different forms of Cannabis: marijuana, hemp, and CBD.

Marijuana, Hemp and CBD

Marijuana is a psychoactive drug that can be smoked, vaped, eaten or applied to the body as a cream. There are different parts of the plant such as the leaves, stems, flower buds and extracted oils.

THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) is the active chemical in the plant that causes the psychosocial effects experienced by its users. These effects can be hallucinations, delusions and short-term memory issues. They can last several hours and can stay in the blood stream up to 6 weeks.

Hemp is used in the industrial or commercial industry and has lower levels of THC. The hemp seeds can be crushed and added to oils, food and beauty products. Its fibers are used in rope, fabrics, paper and other products.

CBD (Cannabidiol) is oil extracted from the marijuana plant that does not produce the high of the THC. CBD has been proven to help with disorders such as anxiety, acute and chronic pain relief, decreasing inflammation and reducing the psychoactive effects of the THC.

Common uses of medical marijuana products:

  • AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome)
  • Arthritis
  • Cancer
  • Pain Management
  • Glaucoma
  • Migraines
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Insomnia
  • And much more

There are many different ways that medical marijuana products can be immensely beneficial in treatments, so it’s worth a conversation with your doctor.

Marijuana Card

You might be wondering how you can get a marijuana card. Well, first you must find a provider, then qualify for the prescription and finally find a dispensary you trust.

Find a Provider: The state you live in may have certain restrictions or approved medical providers that can prescribe the card. You may also search for a Naturopathic Doctor in your area who could provide these services as well.

Qualify: States issues medical marijuana cards. The consumer/patient must be a resident of the state and have no criminal record. A doctor must certify the need for the medication with a qualifying condition of treatment.

Find a cannabis dispensary: Some states have separate medical and recreational dispensaries.

Be advised that there is currently no way to determine the exact amount of THC or CBD in each plant or in each offered product. You may be shopping for a product that will help you sleep, but during manufacturing the plant has been cross bred with one that increase your energy.

Dr. Sarah Bennett of Natural Med Doc states “Products containing THC and CBD can have various levels of the psychoactive ingredient in them. It is important when you are shopping for your prescription you discuss with the dispensary the quality of the products sold, the amount of THC or CBD in the products, the ingestion rate, how long the effects of the products last and how long will the product stay in your system.”

Health Insurance

With the legalization of marijuana medical use you may be wondering if your health insurance pays for medical marijuana. The quick answer to this question – no.

As of today, there are 46 states that have legalized marijuana for medical use. There are still four states that have completely illegalized the use of marijuana in all aspects: Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and Idaho.

The main issue with health insurance not being able to cover the expense of treatment is each state has different levels of acceptance. Of course, the biggest challenge for insurance companies is that the DEA still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, making its use or sale illegal at the federal level.

That may not change anytime soon. The DEA considered reclassifying marijuana as a Schedule II drug like Ritalin or oxycodone, but decided it keep it as a Schedule I drug.

FDA-Approved medical marijuana products

According to, currently the only FDA medical approved forms of marijuana that are covered by health insurance companies are:


  • Brand names: Marinol, Syndros
  • Pharmaceutical form of THC
  • Approved to treat chemotherapy patients who have nausea and vomiting, and anorexia with weight loss patients in AIDS


  • Brand name: Cesamet
  • Synthetic cannabinoid
  • Approved to treat chemotherapy patients who have nausea and vomiting


  • Brand name: Epidolex
  • Pharmaceutical form of THC
  • Approved to treat patients two years and older with seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome (severe, rare types of epilepsy that begin in childhood)

In Summary

Even though the laws in each state are changing to accept marijuana and other alternative medicine as treatment for many illnesses, the road to federal acceptance will be a long one.

The main issue from a medical standpoint is there is no way to regulate the amount of the psychoactive component of the plant to provide safe and predicable treatment. Until science can figure out how to do that, the consumer is just going to have to sit back and patiently wait.

For more great content and resources on chronic and life-threatening illnesses, be sure to keep up with our other posts and updates!

Katherine (Tori) Lutz is a graduate of Florida State University and current student at Columbia University. Tori LutzProfessionally, she has a great deal of experience in writing, editing, and marketing in naturopathic medical areas, working one-on-one with NMDs and RNs. She is currently living in New York City with her cat, Garfunkel. LinkedIn / Twitter / Instagram

You’ll receive updates about new resources, patient stories and insights, advocacy work, and alerts about patient-support events.