Medical marijuana laws could be saving taxpayers money

 
By Abigail Miller • Published: July 21st, 2017
Category: Health in a Heartbeat
Play

Medical marijuana could be saving U.S. taxpayers major bucks when it comes to Medicaid expenses. That’s according to a new study released on HealthAffairs.org.

As of December, 28 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws legalizing medical marijuana. Two researchers from the University of Georgia conducted a study analyzing the impact of these laws on the amount of money being spent filling prescriptions for Medicaid beneficiaries.

The researchers collected data on all fee-for-service Medicaid prescriptions from 2007 to 2014 and looked at the number of prescriptions filled by Medicaid beneficiaries in states that had legalized medicinal marijuana. They found the use of prescription drugs was much lower in states that had some sort of law allowing medical marijuana than in states that did not, suggesting patients are substituting cheaper medical marijuana for prescription drugs.

This is important because the federal government classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, meaning it has no ‘’currently accepted medical use.’’ If patients are swapping medical marijuana for prescription drugs, it could be an indication that marijuana is gaining acceptance for medical purposes.

The researchers further estimated that if all states in the U.S. had a medical marijuana law in the year of 2014, savings on Medicaid prescriptions would have been near $1 billion.

The researchers conducted a similar study of medical marijuana laws and prescriptions filled by Medicare beneficiaries that found similar results. The two studies suggest that in states with medical marijuana laws, Medicaid and Medicare beneficiaries will fill fewer prescriptions, thus saving government money.