Updated on January 5, 2020.
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Medical expenses can add up, and cannabis costs are no exception. While not as expensive as many prescription drugs, cannabis products certainly aren’t cheap and related costs can put a dent in the budget over time.
One problem is that cannabis is classified as a schedule I drug and lacks approval by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Therefore, just as with over-the-counter remedies, insurance will not cover the cost of medical cannabis. But there are ways to make cannabis more affordable and fit it into almost any budget.
One way to dramatically curb costs is to simply grow your own. While there may be an initial outlay of cash for equipment, you can make that cost back once you start growing and using your own plants. However, state laws can vary about the legalities of growing plants in your home. Some states that permit medicinal cannabis allow card-carrying patients to cultivate a limited number of plants for personal use. In states that allow cannabis for both medical and recreational use, the laws may still not permit users to have their own unrestricted marijuana farms. In Washington, for example, where both types of use are legal, you can grown your own if you qualify for medical marijuana but not your own recreational cannabis unless you are a certified grower.
Use Lower Doses
You may be using more cannabis than you actually need to help your symptoms, and may be able to cut your dose. More is not always better and you may find that a lower dose is just as effective. In many cases, you may only need 10-15mg of cannabis, which can last for several hours. Also, if you are new to cannabis , you can experiment with microdosing, which involves using very small doses that are nonetheless sufficient to relieve symptoms of many conditions. The dose can be titrated up slowly if you find that you need more to relieve symptoms.
Timing Your Doses
In addition to using the lowest and most effective dose, timing your doses is important. Using a higher dose at night, for instance, of a sedative product or strain can be an effective strategy as higher nighttime doses are more likely to promote sleep. Getting more high-quality sleep can translate to feeling more rested and having fewer symptom flare-ups during the day. If symptoms are better controlled, that can translate to needing less cannabis during the daytime.
Another method is to use smaller doses at about the same time every day, just as you would use a prescription drug. This approach may help stop or at least reduce the likelihood of breakthrough symptoms, which can occur when you’ve waited too long to take another dose.
Buy in Bulk
Just like at the market, when you buy flour, tea, granola, or any other commodity from the bulk bins, you will save money by purchasing cannabis in bulk. For example, if you typically use an eighth of dried flower over the course of a week, it may be more cost effective to buy an ounce and store the remainder properly. Buying in bulk, however, is only cost effective if the overall price per gram drops as the amount purchased increases. Dispensaries may offer discounts for purchasing larger amounts of cannabis, so it is also good to inquire if they have any current or upcoming deals.
Promos and Offers
In most states, the dispensary business is competitive, and to get and keep business, they may offer special promotions. They may have loyalty programs that offer discounts or even free products once you become a regular customer or refer others to the business. It never hurts to ask. In addition, you should shop around to compare prices and see where you can get the best deal.
Try to buy only the most cost-effective products. This will vary depending on your symptoms. For example, if you have pain that flares up only a few times a month, investing in an expensive (~$75) bottle of a potent tincture may be more effective in giving you relief than smoking an entire gram in one day. If you are using cannabis for multiple conditions that may each require different doses for relief, having a range of products may be more cost-efficient as well as more effective. For example, many people use a combination of dried flower, edibles, and topicals for the best effect.
Get More Out of Less
There are a number of ways to make your cannabis more effective. One way is to eat foods that contain “good fat” such as salmon, avocados or nut butters, which boosts the potency of edibles and other type of cannabis. Fatty foods seem to help your body break down and absorb cannabinoids more efficiently. This is in contrast to the popular idea that consuming cannabis on an empty stomach is the best way.
Edibles are a great and cost-effective method of consuming cannabis, as they will produce an effect that is much longer lasting than smoking. The average effect from an edible lasts anywhere between 4-6 hours or even longer, while the effect from smoking will wear off in about 2-3 hours. Generally speaking, most people need to eat only small amounts of cannabis to get an effect.
About The Author
Roxanne Nelson is a registered nurse who has written for a wide range of publications for healthcare professionals and consumers, including Medscape, The Lancet, Prevention, Scientific American, WebMD, American Journal of Nursing, Frontline, National Geographic, Hematology Adviser, American Journal of Medical Genetics and the Washington Post, among others.