Food as Pharma?
On the surface, the recent High Times Cannabis Cup in Seattle appeared to be one big counter culture smoke fest for “Free the Weed!” enthusiasts. With reggae music pumping and Twitter ablaze with photos of cannabis dabbing Millennials blowing psychotropic smoke rings, there were clusters of grizzled gray beards and former hippies now eligible for AARP discounts.
After a cursory glance, however, I spotted a few J. Crew polos and Cole Haan loafers. Indeed cannabis has come out of the subculture shadows and into the mainstream consciousness. Cable and online news agencies are fascinated with profiles of stay-at-home moms with severely ill children and adults with compromised immune systems, extolling the benefits of marijuana.
There is no shortage of statistically significant evidence either. Cannabis can alleviate symptoms from insomnia and nausea to glaucoma and multiple sclerosis. Illinois recently released their medical marijuana legislation, which lists no less than 35 known medical conditions. Those who qualify will be able to purchase their medicine in classic smokable form, as well concentrated extracts, vaporizers, tinctures, lotions and transdermal patches, along with infused drinkables and my favorite, tasty edibles.
It’s official; edibles have come of age. Now, the real question, where will corporate America take if from here? Who will play (and win) in the burgeoning multi-billion dollar “Food as Pharma” industry?
If gourmet food can be infused with cannabis and be considered medicine, will traditional insurance companies be willing to help patients pay for medicine not in pill form, but as a tasty food product? For instance, will Blue Cross be willing to “co-pay” for food-based marijuana medicine just as they currently provide for prescription drugs? Is a lemonade soda infused with cannabis eligible for a co-pay discount? How about an infused gourmet chocolate truffle?
Evidently there is one company that wants to help patients: Novus Med Plan. According to the behind-the-scenes buzz amongst stakeholders at the recent Cannabis Cup event in Seattle, Novus wants to step into the medical cannabis insurance business and capitalize on the marketplace concept of marijuana as medicine in the hopes that big insurance and big pharma are asleep at the wheel.
According to Novus’ pre-enrollment form, for a $19.95 monthly fee members can save up to 50 percent on the cost of wellness products. If Novus is able to follow through, they might be the first insurance plan to help member patients pay for cannabis pharmaceuticals. Perhaps this is indicative of an entirely new trend in legitimizing marijuana as medicine.