Why Health Insurance Won't Cover Your Medical Marijuana
Category: Medical Marijuana | Posted on Thu, May, 8th 2014 by THCFinder
Patients who use medical marijuana for pain and other chronic symptoms can take an unwanted hit: Insurers don't cover the treatment, which costs as much as $1,000 a month.
Once the drug of choice for hippies and rebellious teens, marijuana in recent years has gained more mainstream acceptance for its ability to boost appetite, dull pain and reduce seizures in everyone from epilepsy to cancer patients.
Still, insurers are reluctant to cover it, in part because of conflicting laws. While 21 U.S. states have passed laws approving it for medical use, the drug still is illegal federally and in most states.
But perhaps the biggest hurdle for insurers is the U.S. Food and Drug Administration hasn't approved it. Major insurers generally don't cover treatments that are not approved by the FDA, and that approval depends on big clinical studies that measure safety, effectiveness and side effects.
That research can take years and millions of dollars. And while the FDA has approved treatments like Marinol that contain a synthetic version of an ingredient in marijuana, so far, no one has gained approval for a treatment that uses the whole plant.
As a result of the obstacles, advocates for medicinal marijuana say insurers likely won't cover the drug in the next few years. In the meantime, medical marijuana users — of which advocates estimate there are more than 1 million nationwide — have to find other ways to pay for their treatment.
Bill Britt, for instance, gets his supply for free from a friend whom he helps to grow the plants. Britt lives mostly on Social Security income and uses marijuana every day for epileptic seizures and leg pain from a childhood case of polio.
"I'm just lucky I have somebody who is helping me out, but that could go away at any time," said Britt, 55, who lives in Long Beach, California. "I am always worried about that."
Insurers have not seen enough evidence that marijuana is safe and more effective than other treatments, said Susan Pisano, a spokeswoman for America's Health Insurance Plans, an industry trade group.
Marijuana's Schedule I classification under the federal Controlled Substances Act makes it difficult to conduct clinical studies that might provide that evidence. The classification means the drug is considered to have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use. And that means extra precautions are required in order to study it.
Researchers have to apply to the FDA to approve their study. Public Health Service, another arm of the Department of Health and Human Services, also may review it, a process that can take months.
The Drug Enforcement Administration has to issue a permit after making sure researchers have a secure place to store the drug. Researchers also have to explain the study plan to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, or NIDA, another agency within Health and Human Services.
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Medical-marijuana bill now includes cancer, MS, other ailments
Category: Medical Marijuana | Posted on Wed, May, 7th 2014 by THCFinder
People who have cancer, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis or other ailments could be able to use medical marijuana under the expanded "Charlotte's Web" bill awaiting the governor's signature.
The original proposal targeted only a limited number of children with debilitating seizures, but the bill's final wording means Florida will be taking a much larger step toward legalizing medical marijuana.
"It is very important to me to have cancer as a qualifying ailment," said state Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Shalimar, who sponsored the original House bill and shepherded many of the last-minute changes, including the cancer addition.
Gov. Rick Scott said last week he would approve the bill, but his office on Tuesday did not comment on the changes.
If Scott signs the measure, the Florida Department of Health would select and license five companies — one in each corner of the state and in Central Florida — to grow a marijuana variety bred to have a low content of the THC chemical that can get people high and a high content of the CBD chemical that is thought to improve nerve-cell function and shows promise in treating malignant tumors.
The companies would be able to harvest the plants and extract an oil first commercially introduced in Colorado under the brand name "Charlotte's Web." And they would be able to sell the oil in their own dispensaries, which the state could authorize throughout Florida.
As early as Jan. 1, Florida doctors could start registering patients to buy and use the oil if the patient is "suffering from cancer or a physical medical condition that chronically produces symptoms of seizures or severe and persistent muscle spasms," according to the revised bill.
Medical-marijuana opponents say they are concerned about expanding the range of potential abuses.
"Would a physician treating someone for nonmalignant skin cancer be able to place an order? What about someone who has persistent leg cramps?" said Calvina Fay, executive director of Save Our Society From Drugs.
The final bill still is far from creating the kind of broad medical-marijuana legalization that Florida voters will consider in November when they decide Amendment 2.
Unlike the Charlotte's Web bill, the ballot initiative would not limit THC content; it would legalize smokable marijuana; and it would authorize treatment of a much broader range of diseases.
Still, the bill — the final version was known as substitute Senate Bill 1030 — creates a state regulatory, licensing and oversight bureaucracy that could serve as the framework to support Amendment 2 if it is approved, or to handle future expansions of medical marijuana authorized by the Legislature.
Gaetz called the bill "a start" and said he expects it to be built upon.
He said he still would like to see Florida address conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, Alzheimer's disease and dementia, which this bill does not. He also acknowledged that the low THC — limited to 0.8 percent of the oil — would make the oil ineffective for other treatments, including relieving the nausea associated with cancer chemotherapy.
Poll shows Floridians favor medical marijuana
Category: Medical Marijuana | Posted on Tue, May, 6th 2014 by THCFinder
Florida appears ready for medical marijuana.
A poll released Monday shows that 88 percent of Florida voters support allowing adults to legally use marijuana for medical purposes, bolstering the arguments of advocates who have placed a constitutional amendment on the November ballot seeking legalization.
The poll, conducted by Quinnipiac University, indicates widespread support across political and demographic lines — Republicans and Democrats, men and women, young and old — for legal medical marijuana if it is prescribed by physicians. The constitutional amendment needs approval from 60 percent of voters to pass.
"If Vegas were giving odds on medical marijuana becoming legal in Florida, the bookies would be betting heavily," Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University poll, said in a statement released with the results.
Support for the idea has grown slightly since a Quinnipiac poll in November 2013 indicated 82 percent of voters approved of legalization. Since that poll, a group spearheaded by prominent Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan finished gathering enough petition signatures to place the issue on this year's general-election ballot and also received a sign-off from the Florida Supreme Court.
Attorney General Pam Bondi and Republican legislative leaders wanted the Supreme Court to block the constitutional amendment, contending that the proposal was far broader than billed. For example, House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, described the proposal as being "about the Coloradofication of Florida, where the end game is a pot shop on every street corner."
But the Supreme Court, in a 4-3 ruling, allowed the amendment to move forward, finding that the wording of the ballot title and summary would not mislead voters.
Despite the criticism of the ballot proposal, the GOP-dominated Legislature last week approved a bill aimed at making available a strain of marijuana that supporters say will help children who have a form of epilepsy that causes severe seizures. The substance, known as "Charlotte's Web," is low in euphoria-inducing tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, so users do not get high.
Missouri Legislature Approves Medical Marijuana Extract Bill
Category: Medical Marijuana | Posted on Mon, May, 5th 2014 by THCFinder
Missouri’s Senate vote unanimously to approve House Bill 2238 Thursday, sending the measure to the governor. The proposal would legalize the possession and distribution of low-THC cannabis extracts.
If signed into law by Governor Jay Nixon, or allowed to become law without his signature, House Bill 2238 would authorize the state’s Department of Agriculture to produce, manufacture and distribute cannabis extract that’s low in THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and high in CBD (cannabidiol). Those who receive a recommendation from a neurologist would be allowed to possess up to 20 ounces of the extracts.
The proposal also mandates the state to certify a college to cultivate cannabis for research purposes. Its passage in the Senate will send it to the state’s governor for consideration.
Iowa Legislature legalizes medical marijuana oil
Category: Medical Marijuana | Posted on Fri, May, 2nd 2014 by THCFinder
DES MOINES — Lawmakers legalized a limited form of medical marijuana early Thursday morning giving people who suffer from severe epileptic seizures another option for treatment.
The bill allows patients, or their guardians, to possess up to 32 ounces of cannabidiol. Sometimes called CBD, it’s an oil derived from cannabis that has medical applications but doesn’t have a high concentration of THC.
Only people who obtain a neurologist’s prescription would be able to obtain the state-issued card which gives them immunity from prosecution if found in possession of the drug.
They’ll also have to travel out-of-state to get the drug since it’s illegal to produce it here.
“I think it’s important that it’s very narrowly defined,” said Jarad Klein, R-Keota, the House floor manager. The bill passed in the House 77-20.
The Senate took up the bill at 4:28 a.m., about an hour after the House vote and passed the bill 38-8.
The legislation also requires the University of Iowa to gather research each year on cannabidiol for the General Assembly and Iowa Department of Public Health annually.
“What we’re offering today is hope for these families that they can finally get some access to something that can help them,” said Rep. Bob Kressig, D-Cedar Falls.
Legalization advocates pushed all year for a bill to loosen restrictions on cannabis, but it wasn’t until the final few weeks of session that real movement began.
Credit for pushing the issue is split among a group of mothers of epileptic children who individually lobbied lawmakers on the issue and West Des Moines Mayor Steve Gaer and his wife, Sally. The influential Republican couple, whose daughter, 24-year-old Margaret, suffers from seizures, made inroads with House and Senate GOP members.
FL House Passes Medical Marijuana Bill
Category: Medical Marijuana | Posted on Fri, May, 2nd 2014 by THCFinder
TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/AP) — The Florida House as approved bill that would allow for a strain of low-THC marijuana to be legal in the state.
Lawmakers burst into applause after the 111-7 vote that followed nearly two hours of questions and debate. In the end, some lawmakers who were torn on the issues said their hearts were swayed by the stories of parents seeking to help children with severe epilepsy.
“The compassion that was felt in the words of everyone who spoke, the sincerity of this desire to help people who need help lifted this chamber up today,” said Republican House Speaker Will Weatherford after the vote.
The bill puts some restrictions on the use of the marijuana strain known as Charlotte’s Web. It can have no more than 0.8 percent THC, the chemical that makes users feel high. On average, marijuana has about 15 percent THC, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The strain has normal levels of cannabidiol, or CBD, which is used to treat seizures.
Also, people would not be able to just walk into a doctor’s office and get a prescription. Only doctors have who have been providing ongoing treatment of a patient can prescribe it, and only as a last resort if other treatments aren’t effective.
The state would also maintain a registry of eligible patients. The marijuana can’t be smoked and would be converted into an oil. Only four dispensaries would be allowed in the state and they would be highly regulated.
Support for the bill sponsored by Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz was questionable when it was first filed, but became overwhelming after parents of children suffering from seizures pleaded for help during committee hearings.
“In the state of Colorado we do know that 85 percent of children who are using non-euphoric marijuana to control seizures and spasms have seen a 50 to 100 percent reduction in those seizures,” said Gaetz, R-Shalimar.
Still, a handful of House members raised concerns, including a lack of U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for the drug’s use and the possibility that the bill will open the door for wider spread use of marijuana.
“This could be the rifle shot that starts a massive avalanche,” said Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala. “When I look at that I simply can’t pull the trigger.”
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