Will Medical Marijuana be Your Next Employee Benefit?
Are you interested in learning more about this topic? Join us at one of our upcoming regional events on “Everything You Need to Know About Cannabis in the Workplace” taking place this September.
Smell something funky in the air? That’s the impending legalization of recreational marijuana. How much (if at all) will this impact Canadian workplaces is still to be seen, but with 20% 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 implement legalized recreational marijuana use by October 2018, organizations and insurance providers alike are debating whether or not medical marijuana should be included in employee health benefits plans. Currently, though medical marijuana is legal, it is not usually covered. However, as cannabis use becomes more commonplace and accepted with across-the-board legalization, it will likely be prescribed more frequently by doctors and insurance coverage requested more often by employees.
Some companies are already covering legally prescribed pot in certain instances. For example, in March 2017, Canadian mega-chain Loblaw Companies started covering medical marijuana used to treat the symptoms of multiple sclerosis as well as the side-effects of chemotherapy. However, medical marijuana will have to overcome significant regulatory hurdles before it can become a regular health insurance benefit.
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). Though advocates are calling on Health Canada to clear the way for coverage, this has yet to happen. When it does, insurance providers will then need to run a cost-benefit analysis to determine whether the drug is worth covering, which is tricky because of the huge number 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% 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 through its benefits plan to give workers a healthier alternative to highly addictive opiods.
Whether it happens this summer, or further down the road, the likelihood of medical marijuana being regularly covered by insurance providers is real.