Over the last twenty years, we have seen a large shift in the way most Americans see marijuana. In 1995, no state-approved marijuana for medicinal use, and only a fourth of respondents in national polls sought to legalize medical marijuana. Twenty years later, in 2015, there are twenty-three states that allow physicians to prescribe marijuana for medicinal use and four additional states that are experimenting with recreational use for adults. In addition, over fifty percent of the United States now support the legalization of marijuana.

However, the marijuana debate extends beyond merely legalizing marijuana; it is also about allowing for terminally ill patients that could benefit from medical marijuana to access it. If medical marijuana was legalized across the nation, it would theoretically be extremely cost efficient for the health insurance industry.

A clinical review published by Dr. Kathryn Hahn of Oregon State University’s College of Pharmacy in 2011 showed that using prescription drugs recreationally, also known as drug diversion, costs the health insurance industry $72.5 billion a year. Not only that but $25 billion in costs are given up in the private insurance market. Most of the costs come from prescriptions that are opioid-based; the abuse of these could be replaced by marijuana which would significantly lower costs because there would be no chance of neither an overdose nor complications.

Theoretically, medicinal marijuana may give a new method of treatment for sundry diseases along with lowering healthcare costs for providers; this would be of interest to the federal government. However, is it possible that medical marijuana will be in line with Medicare, the program that is supposed to cover a large amount of costs for senior citizens? In 2015, Medicare is predicted to cost the federal government $546 billion, which is 3% of the GDP. Therefore, any program that would save the federal government some sort of money would likely be of interest for them.

In 2015, Medicare is anticipated to cost the federal government about $546 billion, or roughly 3% of GDP, so any program or therapy that could save the federal government money is likely to be at least considered for future implementation.

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