Gather up all the people legally allowed to smoke marijuana in Florida and they would be the state’s seventh largest city, with more people than Tallahassee, Fort Lauderdale or Cape Coral.
But the 212,000 people on Florida’s medical marijuana patient registry cannot get health insurance to cover the cost of their medicine.
“Our constitution recognizes that marijuana is medicine, and if it is in our constitution then companies that provide health insurance to Florida patients should be covering it,” Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried told the Democrat.
Nikki Fried (Photo: Betsy Hansen)
Florida lawmakers first authorized the use of low-THC marijuana in 2014. Upset with the limitations the Legislature imposed on the drug, voters two years later overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment that broadly legalized the plant to treat a wide range of illnesses from epilepsy to anxiety and chronic pain.
But while Florida as a government may recognize marijuana as a medicine, the state as an employer does not.
The health insurance plan offered to 162,000 state employees provides no cannabis coverage. A Department of Management Services spokesman said the state has no marijuana policy for coverage because none of the state’s medical dispensaries are part of the group insurance network.
VidaCann, a Jacksonville-based flowering plant nursery specializing in medical marijuana, is opening a new Tallahassee location. The Midtown store is located at 1212 N. Monroe St. (Photo: Jessica Keller, Adrenaline Films)
Rep. Ramon Alexander, D-Tallahassee, agrees with Fried: That needs to change.
“We need to have a comprehensive review to allow the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes for health insurance coverage,” said Alexander. “The therapeutic value of medical marijuana may be able to treat and alleviate symptoms of a variety of serious medical conditions … that many of our state employees face.”
Sun Life Financial of Canada, which provides health insurance to more than 20 percent of Canadians, offers cannabis coverage. And insurers in Germany covered $83 million in medical cannabis products in 2018.
But private insurers deny coverage in the U.S. by citing IRS regulations, the lack of FDA approval of marijuana as medicine and a federal classification as a Schedule 1 drug, on par with heroin and cocaine