By 2013, 17 states plus the territory of Washington, DC legalized or formed legislation around medical marijuana.
A study by the University of Georgia suggests that this change caused about a $165.2 million savings in Medicare costs. How did this happen? Well, the use of medical marijuana lowered the use of prescription drugs that are funded by Medicare– resulting in savings.
It is estimated that approximately $468 million could have been saved if all states had legalized the use of medicinal marijuana.
As we in the rare disease world know, medical marijuana can be used to treat symptoms of rare diseases like epilepsy and multiple sclerosis (MS). Those symptoms include: pain, nausea, sleep disorders spasticity, seizures, anxiety and depression. Additionally, it has been known to treat symptoms of ALS like drooling and depression, and possibly even halt the progression of the disease. Not only that, but there is evidence to suggest it reduces painful symptoms of Crohn’s ranging from diarrhea to abdominal discomfort, leading some patients to full remission.
Though there are side effects to the use of medicinal marijuana such as impaired memory, some sufferers of chronic pain argue that the benefits far outweigh the side effects.
So what does this mean for those of us in states that do not have legalized medical marijuana? Well, they plan to repeat the study but with Medicaid instead of Medicare and expect to find the same type of cost-savings for each state. The findings would support more widespread state legalization of medical marijuana.