Earlier this summer on June 1, 2022, the New York Senate passed legislation (Senate Bill S8837) which would require that medical marijuana, a.k.a. medical cannabis, be covered under health insurance plans offered under public programs, such as Medicaid. The bill also makes clear that private health insurance may cover medical marijuana in that doing so would not be considered illegal under New York law.
Because marijuana remains illegal under federal law, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cannot grant medical marijuana FDA approval which stands as a barrier to coverage by insurance companies. The law passed by New York’s Senate clarifies that FDA approval would not be a requirement for coverage of medical marijuana in the state.
New York’s legislative session lasts two years. Its current session for 2021-22 ended on June 4, 2022, only a few days after passage of S8837 by the state Senate. In order to become law, the bill would also require passage by the New York Assembly (the other body of New York’s bicameral legislature) and need to be signed by the Governor (a two-thirds vote in both the Senate and Assembly can override the Governor’s veto). However, because the legislative session ended just days later, the Assembly did not take up or vote on S8837. Therefore, the bill will need to be reintroduced in New York’s upcoming legislative session starting next year.
Some states, including New York, already allow workers’ compensation insurance to reimburse the cost of medical cannabis used to treat an occupational injury or illness. A state law requiring insurance to cover medical cannabis would be a significant step toward broader acceptance of marijuana as a viable and effective treatment for certain medical conditions.
Several states, such as Georgia, outlaw medical marijuana generally (same as federal law) but have passed laws legalizing medical cannabis. Georgia’s Hope Act, which authorizes the production and sale of low-THC oil (a form of medical cannabis), became law in 2019, and the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission is currently in the process of selecting six companies which will be licensed to grow and sell the oil in Georgia.
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