George Washington reportedly grew it. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have admitted to smoking it (although only one admitted to inhaling). A 2015 Gallup poll revealed that 44% of American adults have tried it. Twenty-three states have legalized it for medical use, and four have done so for recreational use.
“It,” of course, is marijuana, also known as cannabis, weed, or pot. No matter what it is called, marijuana has gone mainstream. Legal market sales were $5.4 billion in 2015, and they are expected to hit $21.8 billion by 2020 as more states legalize marijuana both medically and recreationally. Yet marijuana remains illegal on the federal level. This dichotomy is creating huge conflicts and keeping insurers from tapping into this tremendous market.
Until the mid-1970s, marijuana was mostly used in the U.S. for recreational purposes. Around that time, it became known for having anti-nauseant qualities and for stimulating appetite, and consequently it became popular with people undergoing chemotherapy or suffering from AIDS. Over the past few decades, marijuana has been shown to be effective in providing pain relief, relieving spasticity and controlling muscle spasms, preventing seizures, decreasing anxiety, and lowering eye pressure.
In 1996, California legalized marijuana for medical use. Since then, twentytwo other states have followed suit, with five, including New York and Illinois, doing so in the past three years. Several other states are expected to vote on medical marijuana in 2016. Laws vary from state to state, but all set forth conditions for which use is approved. The most common conditions are seizure disorders, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, and cancer. Some states permit home growth, but in most states medical marijuana is obtained through dispensaries. Most states limit medical marijuana to their own residents, and all require written documentation from a physician.
Legal market sales were $5.4 billion in 2015, and they are expected to hit $21.8 billion by 2020 as more states legalize marijuana both medically and recreationally.
Because marijuana is illegal on the federal level, physicians cannot prescribe it. They can only recommend it, or certify that patients are qualified to use it. Many doctors are opposed to medical marijuana for safety reasons. They feel that it has not been tested sufficiently, or are concerned about possible contaminants, such as mold or pesticides. Physicians are also concerned about violating ethical standards and about not being covered by malpractice insurance for any claims because marijuana is not an FDA-approved drug. The FDA has taken the position that marijuana is not safe or effective for the treatment of any disease or condition. In 2014, the DEA requested that the FDA undertake a scientific and medical analysis of the drug. The results of that review have not yet been made public. The FDA previously reviewed marijuana in 2001 and 2006 at the DEA’s request, and concluded that marijuana should remain classified as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act on both occasions.
States have also started to legalize marijuana for adult recreational use. Colorado and Washington were the first to do so in 2012. Oregon and Alaska followed suit in 2014. Several other states are expected to consider the issue this year, including California, Nevada, Arizona, Vermont, and Maine. What’s the driving force behind recreational legalization? Money plays a key role. Colorado took in $135m in taxes and fees from the sale of marijuana in 2015. States also save money on prosecutorial, judicial, correctional, and police resources. Legalized recreational marijuana also attracts tourism, creates thousands of new jobs, and increases the sale of residential and commercial real estate.
For the full article, refer to page 6 in the Summer 2016 issue. https://www.airroc.org/assets/docs/matters/airroc%20summer%202016%20vol%2012%20no%202.pdf