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Could this mark a change in the way that medical Cannabis is used and paid for?

Andrew Watson had been using medical cannabis to ease the neuropathic pain he continued to experience after a rehabilitating work-related accident at the Lumberyard he was contracted too. His unfortunate accident occurred in 2008, and in 2014, Mr. Watson had been using modest amounts of Marijuana as a method of prescribed pain relief. However, after this point, Watson could no longer afford to pay for the substance and had to stop his treatment. At rates of approximately $475 for an ounce of cannabis, the cost implications are huge – Who could realistically sustain this level of payment for an ongoing medical condition without some form of financial aid?

Watson was instead using a form of opiate that was found to have a lot of side effects. Part of his testimony, in fact, stated that “the effects of marijuana, in many ways, are not as debilitating as the effects of the Percocet”.

Cannabis was deemed to be a more effective and less harmful option.

Due to the circumstance this left Watson in, he had no option but to seek legal action to try and gain reimbursement for his prescription costs, and to gain insurance cover for future Cannabis prescriptions as part of the states controlled program. He could no longer continue to use opiates as a form of treatment.

He testified that the current opiates prescribed were ineffective and had a great many adverse effects. Furthermore, it was noted that Marijuana gave him the most effective form of treatment, and Watson’s use was extremely controlled, cautious and mature – It was out of necessity that he used Cannabis, and to deny this court ruling would have a detrimental effect on his quality of life and future prospects.

A decisive ruling that has far-reaching implications for the medical use of cannabis.

This week, the court case was finalized and a decisive decision was made in Mr. Watson’s favor. An unnamed insurance company would be responsible for the ongoing payment of his medical cannabis and he would also receive back payments for the amounts he had previously purchased on prescription.

This decision is believed to be the first of its kind and the gravity of its implications are huge. Firstly, this court case will bring to the forefront of the legal community the complex issues surrounding the use of medical cannabis – What is deemed an appropriate level of use? Why are opiates still prescribed when Marijuana has a better track record? Who should pay for prescriptions that are required in direct relation to a work accident or unavoidable medical condition?

Furthermore, this New Jersey court ruling has great ramifications for insurance companies and could potentially save them millions in medical costs. If Cannabis becomes prevalent as a method of prescribed pain relief, this could mean money is saved on expensive alternative medicines and pharmaceuticals as a result. Could Marijuana replace traditional forms of medicine when used in moderate amounts and in a controlled manner?

Finally, this decision could raise questions about the sanctioned state Marijuana program and the types of illness, disease, and ailments that it is used to treat. Currently, there is a very small list of disorders and conditions that are covered such as epilepsy, glaucoma and some forms of cancer. Is this list appropriate? Could Cannabis be used in other legitimate medical scenarios? Only time will tell, but Mr. Watson’s court case has surely given cause for concern.

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