Does health insurance cover medicinal cannabis?

The truth is — no. Medicinal cannabis is not covered by health insurance. The thing about cannabis prohibition is that it inhibits access to medicinal cannabis across the board. In fact, out of the 1,000+ healthcare providers currently in the United States, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, none cover medical cannabis and likely won’t be for the foreseeable future.
medical cannabis is not covered by health insurance
That also means employer-provided health insurance, the Affordable Care Act or Medicaid/medicare do not provide cannabis coverage. In legal medicinal states, patients can go to the doctor and get prescribed cannabis. But if a state doesn’t have cannabis legislation, there’s no chance of medicinal access.
Furthermore, the Federal Drug Administration, FDA, has sustained that weed lacks clinical research that prevents them from approving cannabis to be administered medicinally. However, the FDA has approved an epilepsy drug, Epidiolex that also contains CBD. Epidiolex is the first cannabis-derived prescription medication approved by the FDA, according to media reports.
Epidiolex cannabis medication approved by FDA for epilepsy patients
And even if the federal government were to legalize marijuana, the FDA would have to still run its clinical trials and research before approving anything formally. So in the meantime, legal state patients are paying out of pocket for their medicine. Though the price of medicinal cannabis is slightly lower than recreational cannabis, the out of pocket expenses are still a thing because insurance is not available.

Other Things To Consider — Inside Cannabis Prohibition That Halts Progress

What Happened During Prohibition?

During the 1920s when the only dopamine releases available were alcohol and stock market speculation, the federal government banned the production, importation and selling of alcohol, AKA “The Prohibition Era.”

Supporters argued that Prohibition would solve a wide range of social issues and improve citizen health. It didn’t go as planned. The only ways to access alcohol at this time were through a prescription from a doctor or bootlegging. This new barrier prompted many to seek out other substances like cannabis.

Cannabis Use Becomes Racialized

People fleeing to the United States from the violence of the Mexican Revolutionary War brought marijuana with them. Jazz was exploding and everyone in the music business including musicians did not hide the fact that they regularly smoked weed. People of color became the most visible cannabis users.
young black african american man holding a cannabis joint
The word “marijuana” was pushed by politicians to emphasize the “foreignness” of cannabis use and to exacerbate anti-Mexican sentiment even though cannabis had been officially part of the United States Pharmacopeia since 1850. The early 1900s saw a spike in newspaper headlines such as Evil Mexican Plants that Drive You Insane and became commonly associated with murder and insanity.

“There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers,” said Harry Anslinger, the first director of the federal Bureau of Narcotics in 1930. “Their satanic music, jazz and swing, results from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with negroes, entertainers, and others.”

Politicians stigmatized marijuana use to justify white supremacy and win elections.

A New Deal?

The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 required weed importers and exporters to pay an annual tax. Violators of the new law faced forfeiture, fines and prison. Hemp production was inadvertently affected along with cannabis scientific research. This was a bad turning point for weed.
Prohibition 2.0
In 1971, drug abuse was declared “public enemy number one” and the Drug War began. The War on Drugs is now widely viewed as being racially biased against the antiwar left since many people in the antiwar movement were people of color opposed to the Vietnam War. President Richard Nixon succeeded in getting congress to disrupt and jail his dissidents and federal law surrounding marijuana has been mostly the same ever since.
Former President Richard Milhous Nixon

How is Marijuana In A Catch-22?

The FDA has a Drug Formulary or list of drugs that healthcare providers use to prescribe medications. With no federal funding for research into the positive effects of marijuana, the FDA has no recognized body of research to draw from to get cannabis onto its Drug Formulary. No federal money gets put into marijuana studies because the government sees marijuana as having a high potential for abuse and of no medicinal value.
u.s department of health and human services food and drug administration

When Will Weed Become Legal?

Congress doesn’t show any signs that it will legalize weed anytime soon. This lack of comprehensive policy hinders the cannabis space. If congress were to decriminalize marijuana or lower its position on the drug scheduling list, health insurance providers wouldn’t automatically start paying up. It would still have to go through the FDA process to get covered which could take years. A likely scenario is a marijuana being relisted as an over-the-counter herbal remedy with no prescription needed.
References —

“Did You Know… Marijuana Was Once a Legal Cross-Border Import?” U.S. Customs and Border Protection, 2019,

Downs, David. “The Science behind the DEA’s Long War on Marijuana.” Scientific American, Scientific American, 19 Apr. 2016,

Obersteadt, Anne. “Cannabis and Insurance.” NAIC, NAIC Center for Insurance Policy and Research (CIPR),

Office of the Commissioner. “FDA and Cannabis: Research and Drug Approval Process.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA,


Office of the Commissioner. “FDA Approves First Drug Comprised of an Active Ingredient Derived from Marijuana to Treat Rare, Severe Forms of Epilepsy.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA, 28 June 2018,


Rivers, Bill, et al. “U.S. Health Insurance Industry | 2018 Annual Results.” U.S. Health Insurance Industry, National Association of Insurance Commissioners, 2019,

Schultz, Colin. “Nixon Prolonged Vietnam War for Political Gain-and Johnson Knew about It, Newly Unclassified Tapes Suggest.”, Smithsonian Institution, 18 Mar. 2013,

Solomon, Robert. “Racism and Its Effect on Cannabis Research.” Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., Publishers, 27 Feb. 2020,

Thornton, Mark. “Alcohol Prohibition Was a Failure.”, Cato Institute, 17 July 1991,