With legal marijuana now a very real–and costly–proposition, patients are understandably concerned whether or not their pot expenditure could be deducted from their tax returns. As it turns out, the answer isn’t quite so clear-cut for most agencies, but for officials at Massachusetts Department of Public Health, there is no confusion. According to communications director Alec Loftus, “nothing in the law requires any health-insurance provider…to reimburse any person for the expenses of the medical use of marijuana”.
On the other hand, other insurance companies aren’t as quick to say “no”. Kris Hermes, of Americans for Safe Access said that the company has heard reports of patients being reimbursed for medical marijuana expenses. Nevertheless, Hermes emphasizes that these cases are far from standard practice in the industry, saying that “most insurance companies would balk at the idea”.
California, which has always been at the forefront of medical marijuana legalization, has a predictably more tolerant policy. Amanda Reiman, who is the policy manager for the California office of Drug Policy Alliance said that patients may be able to deduct their expenses toward the cost of their MediCal, although they couldn’t get reimbursement for these costs.
One of the solutions that have been proposed is the “compassion programs”. This essentially provides marijuana for low cost–and even for free–to low-income people in need. Reiman said that such programs were part of what dispensaries called the community approach”. According to Reiman, these dispensaries are aware of the large medical bills of some patients, and “compassion programs” are provided as a means of assistance.
Other states have similar programs for providing medical marijuana to people that do not have the means to pay. In Rhode Island for instance, there is a program called the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition. Headed by executive director JoAnne Leppanen, the program provides medical marijuana to sick people who are unable to pay. Rhode Island law actually mandates the distribution of medical marijuana to those who need it, regardless of their ability to pay.
There is still some confusion with regard to whether or not patients can get their insurance to cover medical marijuana-related expenses. Reiman said that it is “daunting to deal with insurance company(s)”, but that patients should ask if they feel justified in asking for assistance.
On the other hand, Hermes said that asking about insurance coverage may be detrimental to the patient. Potential obstacles are associations such as the Veteran’s Affairs (VA) program, the personnel of which are know to oppose the use of medical marijuana. For Hermes, patients risk being discriminated against and being denied other forms of treatments of they ask for assistance for medical marijuana use.
There is one issue where in most experts agree, and that is that medical marijuana may not be shared with anyone else. For John Seed of Allston’s Krefetz and Seed, sharing medical marijuana is not any different from sharing a prescription for drugs such as OxyContin, although he did admit that the chances that anyone else would-be the wiser were slim.
If you are interested in running your own medical marijuana business and would like to know more about prices, get in touch with us and we will be happy to be of assistance!