You would expect that with more than 17 years of existence in Canada, medical cannabis should have already led to policy changes in various aspects of life in the country. However, if the claims of injured workers are anything to go by, workers’ compensation guidelines have been slow in changing to accommodate this form of treatment. Now matters are beginning to shift as the discussion below shows.
More Workers Winning in Tribunals
Mellissa Ellsworth is just one of 10 patients who have won hearings in Nova Scotia’s workers’ comp tribunal set up to assess whether the Workers’ Compensation Board should cover the cost of medical marijuana. It took her five years to get this approval.
Alberta’s board has so far also accepted to cover the medical marijuana costs of 10 workers who were injured on the job. New Brunswick shines in this regard because it has so far approved 71 patients’ applications for medical cannabis costs coverage under workers’ comp policies.
It is saddening that patients have to endure years of pain as their applications slowly make their way through the red tape of the Workers’ Compensation Boards in the different provinces and territories. For example, the neurological pain experienced by Melissa Ellsworth led her to take a total of 26 pills on a daily basis just to function as a normal human. She now takes only cannabis and enjoys a better quality of life.
The good news amidst all this is that for each patient who gets approval, more are encouraged to table their requests before the different boards. Eventually, medical cannabis will become a normal form of treatment and no patient will have to go through what the pioneers like Melissa Ellsworth had to endure to get approval.
Doctors’ Prescriptions Rarely Considered
You would think that the different Workers’ Compensation Boards would attach some weight to the recommendations provided by the primary healthcare providers of the patients who apply for coverage.
However, only Quebec recognizes and acts upon those recommendations. Other boards convene their own medical team sittings to assess the eligibility of a patient for medical cannabis. Why should this happen when Health Canada screens patients before giving them a medical cannabis card?
Caps on Daily Cannabis Consumption
Nearly all provinces and territories that are even willing to consider paying for medical cannabis for injured workers impose a three gram cap on how much medical cannabis a patient can claim coverage for each day.
While there may be valid reasons for this cap, it would be reasonable for these boards to acknowledge that different patients have different needs, so mechanisms should be available for those who need more to be covered without major hassles. Even Health Canada allows patients to grow hundreds of cannabis plants if they need a lot on a daily basis for their treatment. But, workers’ comp boards still insist on three grams a day!
But, There’s Progress…
Amidst this huge cloud hovering over injured workers in Canada, winds of change are slowly picking up. Last year, New Brunswick set the stage by passing medical cannabis guidelines. Prince Edward Island followed suit, and now Nova Scotia is drafting its own set of guidelines.
While all this is happening in Canada, one wonders what the situation is here in the U.S. With most marijuana businesses still struggling to access banking services, it is hard to picture what patients may be going through if they wish to have their medical cannabis costs covered by workers’ comp insurance. Lexaria Bioscience Corp. (CSE: LXX) (OTCQX: LXRP) and Marijuana Company of America (OTCQB: MCOA) decry the slow rate at which workers’ compensation is evolving to accommodate medical cannabis. This isn’t only denying patients a viable treatment option, but it is also limiting the investment opportunities that would boost the economy.
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