Updated on August 16, 2020.
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Many patients who use medical marijuana take it as an alternative to prescription drugs. If you want to take cannabis medicine, you have to factor in prices, especially compared to prescription drug costs. You may already know how much drug producers charge in the United States and want to make sure you have a similar or lower price for medical marijuana. We don’t have a universal answer to give you, but we can help you ask the right questions to find out yourself.
How Health Insurance Factors Into Cost
Health insurance determines the price of medicine and services for numerous Americans. If you have coverage, you might count on your insurance to handle most of the costs of your healthcare. When you get medical marijuana, you need to find a different way to cover the expenses. Due to marijuana’s status as a Schedule I substance, health insurance plans will not consider it for coverage. So, you need to pay out-of-pocket for cannabis medicine and doctor visits related to it.
However, many Americans don’t have the coverage for prescription drugs in the first place. When you have to pay higher prices for your medications, marijuana may have a similar or lower cost. Try researching local medical cannabis prices to see how they differ from the amount you pay for prescription drugs.
The Price of Medical Cannabis Recommendations
States that have medicinal marijuana programs require patients to get approval from their doctor before buying from a medical dispensary. If your physician considers you eligible for treatment, they can give you a recommendation. Some states let you use the recommendation as-is, but many others want patients to join a medical marijuana program. The doctor’s appointment and program registration can cost hundreds of dollars, but the renewal process tends to have a lower price.
If you live in a state with legal recreational marijuana, you can buy cannabis from a retail dispensary. Adults 21 and older can get products meant for recreation that also provide symptom relief. However, the staff at recreational dispensaries don’t always have the training to understand cannabis from a medical perspective. Joining a medical marijuana program in a state with recreational laws can also reduce the prices you pay for medicine.
Available Discounts for Prescriptions and Marijuana
Discounts also impact the price difference between medical marijuana and prescription drugs. If you don’t have prescription insurance, you can use a discount card to reduce your out-of-pocket costs. You can also work with your pharmacist to switch to a generic drug. The discounts you can receive for medical marijuana depends on your dispensary. Some places have programs that cover partial or full costs for patients in need, and many dispensaries have frequent sales. Try asking your dispensary staff about the ways they can help you save money.
Differences in Medical Marijuana Costs by State
The state you live in influences the cost of access to medical cannabis care. Each state has different tax policies for marijuana, and the rates often differ between recreational and medical sales. Many states that have recreational and medical programs waive certain taxes for registered patients. If you live somewhere with high taxes on marijuana, you could save money by getting a medicinal cannabis card.
A medical marijuana program’s structure can also change the amount of money you need to keep up with treatment. Traveling to appointments and dispensaries requires money from your transportation budget, and you will have a longer distance to cover in some states. Certain programs cap the number of dispensaries throughout the state or the number of patients a doctor can serve. These limits can result in longer travel times because you have fewer options close to your home.
Every state’s market has its own prices for marijuana, as well, resulting in different standards throughout the country. While you could pay about $200 for an ounce of high-quality marijuana in Oregon in 2015, the same product would cost $387 in North Dakota. States with recreational marijuana tend to have lower prices than those with medical programs only.
Other Aspects to Consider
When you think about the costs related to medical marijuana treatment, you also need to consider what makes cannabis medicine unique. Medicinal cannabis can offer you more flexibility than prescriptions. Depending on your state, you might have the option to grow cannabis plants or make your own edibles and oils. Marijuana medicine also has multiple ways you can take it, and you can switch among these methods.
You may also want to think about the benefits you get from medical marijuana compared to prescriptions. If you pay a higher price for cannabis medicine but have symptom relief, it might cost less than you realize. Severe medical issues can interfere with your ability to go to work and earn money in other ways. When medicinal marijuana helps you function, you could spend less on lost work days and extra doctor’s appointments.
The Final Verdict
Is medical marijuana cheaper than prescription drugs? As you can see, the answer involves multiple factors and your unique situation. You can use these resources from MarijuanaDoctors.com to inform your decision:
Nationwide Doctor Directory: Our doctor listings include the physician’s prices for first-time appointments, follow-up visits and other charges.
State Medical Marijuana Guides: Each of our state guides includes information about the registration and renewal processes for patients, including fees.
Dispensary Listings: You can use our dispensary pages to find out how far you need to travel to get to the closest location. We strive to include every dispensary available in your state on our site.