Will Medicare pay for medical marijuana?

by: Brenda Lyle

The short answer is no. Cannabis, although legal in Florida as medical marijuana, is still illegal according to the Federal Government and has not been cleared by the Food and Drug Administration. Your primary care doctor likely cannot prescribe it and the costs will NOT be covered by your Medicare prescription drug coverage.

Cannabis has been used medicinally by some cultures since ancient times. In Florida, voters approved the Florida Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative (Amendment 2) in 2016. After subsequent passage by the Senate, the Florida Department of Health established the Office of Medical Marijuana to regulate its prescribing and dispensing. The Amendment authorized the use of medical marijuana for patients diagnosed with ALS, Cancer, Crohn’s Disease, Epilepsy, Glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, MS, Parkinson’s disease, PTSD, Chronic Nonmalignant Pain and terminal conditions (< two years to live). Medical marijuana became legal to smoke in 2019.

Prescribing and dispensing of medical marijuana is highly regulated. Qualified physicians complete special training and must be listed with Florida’s Medical Marijuana Use Registry. Only these physicians can determine a patient’s eligibility to receive a Medical Marijuana Use Registry Identification Card. The card is required by the dispensary along with a prescription from the qualified physician. The physician prescription controls the type, quantity and frequency of the medical marijuana for the desired outcome.

Currently, there are more than 600 dispensaries in Central Florida, with names like Surterra, Curaleaf and Trulieve. These dispensaries sell medical marijuana in all its legal forms in Florida, including flower buds, vapes, oils, tinctures, edibles and even drops. Dispensary assistants are trained to help patients decide among the different forms, consistent with their prescription. Patients who require assistance with administration may register a caregiver –who must also get a Registry ID card. Nearly 900,000 Floridians are registered with the state’s medical marijuana program.

Ready to learn more? Dr. Frank Filiberto will speak during Senior Health Friday with Nurse Lisa on April 12th. RSVP online at www.OneSeniorPlace.com or call 321-751-6771 in Viera.  

One Senior Place is a marketplace for resources and provider of information, advice, care and on-site services for seniors and their families. Questions for this column are answered by professionals in nursing, social work, care management and in-home care. Send questions to AskOSP@OneSeniorPlace.com, call 321-751-6771 or visit One Senior Place, The Experts in Aging. Brenda Lyle is a Certified Care Manager and Certified Dementia Practitioner with One Senior Place, Greater Orlando.