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Will Medical Marijuana be Your Next Employee Benefit?

Marijuana plant leaves
Marijuana plant leaves

With the legalization of recreational pot around the corner, more organizations and insurance providers are seriously considering the benefits of cannabis.

Smell something in the air? That’s the impending legalization of recreational marijuana. With 20 percent of Canadians using pot, according to a 2016 Deloitte survey, and more use predicted once it’s legal, the topic is a hot one.

As the federal government prepares to legalize recreational marijuana this summer, organizations and insurance providers alike are debating whether or not it should be included in employee health benefit plans. Though medical marijuana is currently legal, it is not usually covered. However, as cannabis use becomes more widely accepted with across-the-board legalization, it will likely be prescribed more frequently by doctors and requested for insurance coverage by employees.

Some companies are already covering legally prescribed pot. In March 2017, Canadian mega-chain Loblaw Companies started covering medical marijuana as a treatment for symptoms of multiple sclerosis and the side-effects of chemotherapy.

Many advocates point out that medical marijuana offers a much healthier option for chronic pain sufferers.

Usually, insurers won’t cover a drug until it has passed clinical trials, been approved by Health Canada, and been assigned a drug identification number (DIN). While advocates are calling on Health Canada to clear the way for coverage, this has yet to happen. When it does, insurance providers will need to run a cost-benefit analysis to determine whether the drug is worth covering — a complex situation due to the variety of pot products available, the personalized nature of dosing, and the vast array of conditions the drug is prescribed to treat.

No drugs are 100 percent safe, but, given the opioid addiction crisis much of the country is facing, many advocates point out that medical marijuana offers a much healthier option for chronic pain sufferers. In fact, one Ontario union, LIUNA Local 625 in Windsor, is now offering coverage for medical marijuana to give workers a healthier alternative to highly addictive opioids.

Whether it happens this summer, or further down the road, the likelihood of medical marijuana being regularly covered by insurance providers is a very real possibility.

Interested in how recreational marijuana legalization will impact your workplace?
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