Costs, Co-pays and Cannabis

 Cannabiz Consumer Group’s (C2G) recently released survey, CannaUse™ provides insights into legal medicinal cannabis consumers.

Cost is Key

C2G’s CannaUse™ study examined medicinal cannabis use among more than 55,000 respondents. Findings conclude that one of the major considerations in using cannabis for medicinal purposes is not just the level of relief it may provide but also the cost among treatment options for more chronic ailments.

Medicinal cannabis users less likely to have employer based health insurance, and more likely to perceive out of pocket healthcare costs as high. 

  • Medicinal patients are 26% less likely than the overall population to have health insurance from a current or former employer or trade union.
  • This means that they are also more likely to be paying for insurance out of their own pocket.  Even so, they are slightly more likely to currently be insured than the population as a whole, indicating that medicinal cannabis is likely to be a choice made on efficacy as well as cost.  
  • Medicinal cannabis patients are approximately three times more likely than the overall population to be on Medicaid. This is interesting considering that Medicaid patients have low incomes and access to low-copay or free prescription medications.
  • Medicinal cannabis patients are 20% more likely than the population at perceive that their out-of-pocket and co-pays are “somewhat” or “very expensive.”  

Health insurance does not cover medicinal marijuana, even when prescribed by a physician, used to treat a chronic condition or for end-of-life care. Thus, medicinal cannabis users must be willing to pay for it out of pocket, and frequently must seek out physicians or others who are advocates in order to obtain a prescription.

Health Insurance and Out of Pocket Costs
Medicinal Marijuana Users vs. Overall Respondent Base

Obtain insurance through … All
Index Relative to Total
Current or former employer or union 52% 38% 74
Directly from an insurance company or health marketplace (e.g., ObamaCare) 8% 9% 120
Medicare WITH Part D (prescription drug plan) 12% 14% 116
Medicare WITHOUT Part D (Prescription Drug Plan) 5% 3% 65
Medicare Advantage Plan (Private Medicare Plan) 5% 6% 109
Medicaid or other public health insurance with eligibility requirement 6% 18% 286
Veteran’s Administration 2% 3% 163
Have TRICARE or other military health care 3% Neg. 19
Indian Health Services Neg. Neg. 244
Use any other type of health insurance or health coverage plan 3% 4% 139
Are uninsured 5% 4% 86
Perceive out of pocket costs as … All
Index Relative to Total
Very Expensive 11% 14% 136
Somewhat Expensive 18% 20% 110
Slightly Expensive 22% 17% 76
Slightly Inexpensive 15% 11% 71
Somewhat Inexpensive 14% 12% 84
Very Inexpensive 21% 27% 131

Source:  CannaUse™, 2016.  All rights reserved.

About Cannabiz Consumer GroupTM

Cannabiz Consumer Group investigates the impact of marijuana legalization on consumer spending throughout the economy.

Bringing together a team with expertise in the tracking of emerging markets, data modeling, and predictive analytics, Cannabiz Consumer GroupTM focuses on specific industries that must adapt quickly to cannabis legalization.  This includes over-the-counter medications, beer, wine, spirits, tobacco, other foods and beverages, retail, pharmaceuticals, healthcare, and travel / tourism. Each are subject to shifts in consumer spending as existing legal use markets continue evolve and new markets launch.  

For more information about CannaUse™, contact [email protected] or visit

Shattering Cannabis Stigma and Stereotypes: Mary Jane Comes Out of the Shadows

Sharing cannabis stories

One of the most  interesting aspects of launching C2G is that every meeting begins with someone’s cannabis story – a sort of confessional that we don’t seek but is instead volunteered.  Everyone knows someone who is using cannabis for managing pain or another medical need, if not doing so themselves.  If we have learned anything during the launch of C2G, it is that marijuana usage is commonplace and judged very differently than even a decade ago, and even among casual acquaintances, people do not mind voicing their cannabis usage or opinions.

Stomping out Stoner Stereotypes

So, we begin with dispelling the myths. The stoner stereotype remains pervasive.  A perfect example of the happy stoners is presented in the Harold and Kumar series – a pair of irresponsible party-goers in their early twenties who are rendered vapid by its usage and go to extreme lengths to satisfy their junk food craving.

In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. C2G just completed fielding CannaUse™, the largest study ever conducted on legal marijuana use in the US, conducted among 55,000 households in the US and fielded among members of the IRI / Nielsen National Consumer Panel.  In self-reporting, a majority of Americans (52%) indicated that they had some prior usage of cannabis, translating into 142 million individuals.  Of these, 9% or 25 million have already purchased cannabis legally.  This legal purchase could have occurred at any of the medicinal outlets that are legal in 25 states plus the District of Columbia, or any of the four states that allow recreational usage.

Cannabis is Medicine

Among today’s users, the most common type of cannabis usage in the US is for medicinal purposes and not for “getting high.”  Medicinal cannabis is widely used for pain relief and is viewed as part of a holistic health regimen that includes treatment for ailments such as anxiety, sleep disorders, and relaxation.  It is seen by many as “safer” that addictive opioids and even over-the-counter medications.  From our latest CannaUse™ data, an overwhelming 78% or 215 million Americans favor legalization of cannabis either for medicinal use, recreational use, or both.

Use of Cannabis to Change

Further legalization is on the ballot in several states this election cycle.  Ballot initiatives in California and Nevada are widely expected to pass.  The acceptance (and usage) of cannabis is expected, by C2G at least, to change significantly as legalization continues.  An additional 38% of those polled (105 million Americans) indicated that they would purchase cannabis if it were legal in their state.  We’re a very big country, so the numbers are very large, and the stakes high.

Cannabis Legalization not far behind abortion and climate change as a key 2016 election issue

Candidates and voters take note. From the growth of the economy to the de-institutionalization of our prison system, the issue of cannabis legalization is far reaching, whether or not someone is a potential consumer.

Currently, data from C2G’s 2015 CannaUse study shows that approximately 52% of the adult population over age 21 have used cannabis in their lifetime. That’s 142 million people with first hand experience with cannabis, according to our 2015 CannaUse Study. Approximately 105 million people would be likely purchasers across the United States were there a national market.

31.9% of Americans say they know very much or are an expert on the topic of recreational marijuana legalization.

39.2% say they would be likely to purchase cannabis assuming there were legal retailers in their state of residence.

Pew research has looked at top voter priorities in the upcoming election. 71% see abortion as important. 82% see the environment as important. But what the polls and researchers aren’t looking at is the issue of Cannabis legalization.

According to our CannaUse survey, 56.5% view the issue of cannabis legalization in the US as important to them in the upcoming presidential election.

As our country recovers from a recession, poor job prospects, international unrest, and is increasingly polarized by social issues, one issue stands out as one about growth. Pun intended.

The issue of marijuana legalization, both recreational and medicinal, is one of substantial scope from a medical, business and political perspective. Top voter priorities this year include the economy as number 1, and healthcare as number 4. Cannabis legalization should not be ignored, as it has serious implications for policy issues topping the list. Check out Marijuana Policy Project’s presidential candidate review to see where candidates stand on the issue.

Cannabis legalization is a more important issue than the media or the candidates, or the majority of the population may realize because it is given only quiet attention. It impacts tax burdens, jobs, medical costs, and prison populations, and it should be debated on any “next-gen” platform.