Health Insurance Premiums Decrease in States With Legal Medical Cannabis

Compelling new data suggests that medical cannabis legalization brings down health insurance rates, which benefits both consumers and non-consumers alike.

A new study featured online in The International Journal of Drug Policy (which will be included in the September 2023 issue of the journal) shows evidence that states with legal medical cannabis have lowered health insurance premiums.

The study authors included professors from Bowling Green State University in Ohio, Illinois State University, and Eastern Michigan University, who reviewed U.S. private health insurance financial data collected by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners between 2010-2021. The most significant reductions were seen in medical cannabis states seven years later, with annual premiums set at $1,662.70, followed by $1.541.80 in the eighth year, and $1,625.80 in the ninth year. “Although the effect does not begin until seven years post-medical cannabis law implementation, there is a significant and sizable reduction in health insurance premiums,” the authors stated.

Ultimately, researchers noted that these savings are “…appreciated by cannabis users and non-users alike in states that have implemented MCLs [medical cannabis laws].”

The study included examining individual market health insurance plans, but not employer-sponsored insurance. It also only analyzed data from states with just medical cannabis, not medical and adult-use cannabis.

“The implementation of MCLs lowers individual-market health insurance premiums. Health insurance spending, including premiums, comprises between 16% and 34% of household budgets in the United States. As healthcare costs continue to rise, our findings suggest that households that obtain their health insurance on the individual (i.e., not employer sponsored) market in states with MCLs appreciate significantly lower premiums.”

Study authors also pointed out that insurance rates varied depending on when the state put its medical cannabis law into effect. “For early, mid, or late adopting states, there seems to be a small increase in premium in the second full years after enactment,” researchers explained. “However, early moving states continue to see a decline in premiums for years three through nine, whereas mid-adopting states see an attenuated impact on premiums after year three.”

Some people have suggested that legalizing medical cannabis would raise health insurance premiums, however researchers in this study suggest those claims are incorrect and lacking in evidence.

The theme of reduction also extends to other studies as well, from lowering risk or symptoms of certain medical conditions to reducing effects of legal cannabis in city or state regions.

The topic of youth cannabis use has led to numerous studies about the risk or benefits, but some studies such as one published by the University of Illinois found that youths living in ZIP codes with medical cannabis dispensaries were consuming cannabis less than those who did not live near medical cannabis dispensaries.

Cannabis has also been found to improve quality of life and help reduce opioid use in chronic pain patients, according to a study published in April which analyzed more than 700 chronic pain patients enrolled in the UK Medical Cannabis Registry. Another study found that four out of five patient participants have also reduced opioid use or dropped it completely through the consumption of cannabis. Researchers in Israel also came to similar conclusions when analyzing cancer patients’ pain and their reliance on opiates. Additionally, other studies have examined the trend of legalization reducing prescription drugs which treat conditions such as pain, depression, anxiety, sleep, psychosis, and seizures.

Some of the most powerful examples of cannabis reducing medical conditions is seen in those who suffer from epileptic seizures. One study found that whole-plant cannabis extracts helped reduce seizures by 86%.

A study released earlier this month found that cannabis users have a decreased risk of Type 2 Diabetes, although more research is recommended to further explore the evidence. Other studies have also found that cannabis lowered the risk of liver disease, was associated with lower blood pressure, and decreased fatigue

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