Marijuana News Roundup: Legal Pot Could Save $1 Billion in Medicaid Expenses

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If all 50 states and the District of Columbia had legalized medical marijuana in 2014, the savings in fee-for-service Medicaid would have totaled $1.01 billion. According to research published last week in “Health Affairs,” the use of prescription drugs in fee-for-service Medicaid was lower in states where medical marijuana was legal than in non-legal states.

Researchers Ashley C. Bradford and W. David Bradford had conducted a similar survey on the impact of medical marijuana on Medicare Part D (prescription drug coverage) enrollees. In that study, their findings “suggested that patients in states with such laws were substituting medical marijuana for prescription drugs.” We took a look at marijuana use, both medical and for recreational purposes, among people aged 65 and older in another story this morning.

The authors concluded that in the states where medical marijuana use was legal in 2014, Medicaid savings ranged from $260.8 to $475.8 million, or about 2% of total Medicaid spending. That’s an average of $19.825 for the 23 states and the District of Columbia where medical marijuana use was legal in 2014. They note:

Given that total spending observed in the fee-for-service Medicaid State Drug Utilization Data for 2014 was just under $23.9 billion, the observed savings related to the laws were equivalent to about 2 percent of the total spending. If all states had had a medical marijuana law in place in 2014, the national savings for fee-for-service Medicaid would have been approximately $1.01 billion.

Who’s the New Drug Czar? Here Is What He Means for Marijuana
After months of speculation, President Donald Trump apparently has found [his] drug czar. Congressman Tom Marino, an early and vocal supporter of Trump’s run for the White House, reportedly will be nominated director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP).

According to CBS, the first news outlet to  break the news of the pending announcement, reported that “Marino is in the final stages of completing his paperwork and an official announcement is forthcoming.” If true, Marino will resign from his seat in the House, which he has held since 2011.

The position is not a cabinet post, but requires a Senate confirmation. Historically, the ONDCP advises the executive branch on drug-control issues and coordinates activities to combat drug-related issues. The agency’s charter includes fighting to reduce illicit drug use, putting a stop [to] illegal narcotic manufacturing and trafficking, reducing drug-related crime and violence, and improving drug-related health consequences.

“My understanding is that Tom has a deep understanding of the issue and is excited to get started,” Kevin Sabet, who served for three presidents as an ONDCP adviser, told CBS News.

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), a leading cannabis advocacy group, gives Marino a “D” grade for his positions. The former prosecutor has a long record of voting against progressive marijuana legislation, including opposing amendments that would have allowed Department of Veterans Affairs doctors to recommend cannabis to veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Read more at Salon.