A Study Finds Medical Marijuana Could Save Medicare $1 Billion A Year


The Trump administration may pound its chest over marijuana, but 2016 was a banner year for pot legalization. And further putting the writing on the wall, an analysis of medical marijuana is finding that it saves taxpayers a staggering amount of money.

University of Georgia researchers wanted to see the impact of medical marijuana on prescription drugs, so they took spending data from states on “fee-for-service” Medicare prescriptions. “Fee-for-service” means each “service” is charged for separately, so basically if your doctor prescribes you three drugs, each one is paid for separately on the books. Medical marijuana didn’t have an impact on four of the nine pharmaceutical groups studied, but of those it did, the results were surprising, with…

…a 13 percent reduction for drugs used to treat depression, a 17 percent reduction for those used to treat nausea, 12 percent reductions for those used to treat psychosis and those used to treat seizure disorders, and an 11 percent reduction for drugs used to treat pain.

Overall, it’s roughly estimated that if all fifty states had legal medical pot, collectively the nation would have saved $1 billion on Medicare payments. While that’s a small slice of the $646 billion spent in 2015 on Medicare, it’s a fairly substantial savings in an area states are looking to drive prices down in.

It’s also important because the study indicates that doctors and patients view medical marijuana as medicine, instead of going to the doctor with a minor ailment just to secure a “weed card.” That’s been a major concern for states without legalized medical weed, but in light of doctor behavior, and patient costs, that may be the cue most states need to let doctors prescribe cannabis.

(via Vice)