When will Medicare cover medical marijuana?

Many older adults are using medical marijuana to treat a variety of conditions, but experts say that conflicting laws, unclear safety standards and complicated rulemaking processes mean it could be years before Medicare may cover the drug.

One in five Medicare recipients currently uses medical marijuana, according to an April 2022 poll by the Medicare Plans Patient Resource Center, an organization that provides Medicare guidance and information. And nearly a quarter have used it in the past. Two-thirds of Medicare recipients think Medicare should cover it, the poll found.

But Medicare doesn’t cover medical marijuana because it’s not federally legal and not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Here’s where the situation stands.

WHY COVER MEDICAL MARIJUANA FOR OLDER ADULTS?

In one analysis of data from a large cannabis dispensary in New York, 60% of patients were 50 or older, according to an April 2022 paper in the journal, Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research. The patients used cannabis for severe or chronic pain, cancer, Parkinson’s disease and neuropathy, among other things.

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