By Richard Farrell
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) has faced conservative opposition ever since the subject first cropped up. Despite that, it is in place and moving along quite nicely, at least for now. A similar amount of opposition has confronted the campaign for medical marijuana. Until recently, issues regarding the ACA and medical marijuana have remained separate, which is best for both; however, new reports have highlighted that issues of insurance and medical marijuana are intersecting.
On May 20, 2014, GoLocal reported that some patients in Rhode Island are lobbying for Obamacare to cover medical marijuana. While Dogget & Simpson, a marijuana nutrient company, agrees with these patients, the company’s support may simply veil a motive to increase its business.
Jared Moffat, Director of Regulate Rhode Island, has a more legitimate handle on the intersection of these issues. He argues that subsidizing prescription opiates through insurance, but not medical marijuana, skews the odds against an herbal remedy. He explains the price differential for patients is as wide as $5 per month for opiates versus $400 to $500 for medical marijuana. Moffat believes marijuana policy reform should be discussed alongside healthcare plans that would cover alternative forms of marijuana administered through medibles and vaporizers.
Not surprisingly, Kevin Sabet of Smart Approaches to Marijuana does not support insurance coverage of medical marijuana. In 2013, Salon Magazine described him as “the quarterback of the new anti-drug movement,” and since then he has proved himself adept at calling the shots. Unlike many of his allies, he has crystal-sharp logic and an ability to score points. He was in good form when he claimed, “joints cannot be dosed, and smoking is not an accepted medication delivery system.”
Moffat and John Simpson, of Dogget & Simpson, countered Sabet when they said that alternative methods of taking marijuana need to be implemented in order for the insurance coverage proposal to work. They advocate for doses of marijuana oil to be dispensed via medibles and vaporizers. If their proposal moves forward, Sabet’s argument falls away.
Sabet has an alternative plan of attack should this succeed. He bases this on the principle that only medication the FDA approves should benefit from national insurance coverage. This effectively blocks the Rhode Island campaign until the people on Capitol Hill reform the system. It seems Moffatt and Simpson are left with a good idea that can’t work under current regulations.
Obamacare remains threatened by the next Republican president who enters the White House. Some opponents have vowed to pull out the program roots and all. That being said, now is not the right time for marijuana and health insurance to converge.