Is Medical Marijuana Included in Your Employee Benefit Plan?

With the legalization of recreational marijuana, business owners and insurers are cautiously exploring coverage for medical marijuana as well. Medical marijuana has been legal since 2001, and Canada is a pioneer in its use for a variety of ailments. However, is medical marijuana included in your employee benefit plan? Should it be and what does that mean for your business?

Medical cannabis has been clinically proven to help patients suffering from:

  • Nausea and pain from cancer treatments
  • Neuropathic pain from multiple sclerosis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis, which has been unresponsive to other therapy methods
  • Neuropathic pain in HIV/AIDS patients
  • Palliative care

Several major insurance providers have opened the door to the inclusion of medical marijuana in group benefit insurance plans. These include Sun Life and Manulife, both are the largest providers across the country and other smaller players are sure to suit. While medical marijuana is a coverage option, it is very limited to specific conditions such as those mentioned above. This is primarily due to limited clinical trials on the benefits of marijuana.

Why are clinical trials limited? No one can patent marijuana as a drug, so no pharmaceutical company has financial interest in cannabis, their interest lies in complex drugs with man-made ingredients almost impossible to pronounce. However, with the legalization of recreational marijuana, cannabis producers will have the funds necessary to increase the scope of clinical trials.

Some business owners are unhappy with the limited scope of care offered by the major insurance companies, if you are one of them there is another option. Health Spending Accounts (HSA’s) allow you set a specific dollar amount for each employee to spend on any qualified medical expense. A prescription for medical marijuana would fit this category.

Medical marijuana included in your employee benefit plan also raises several concerns among business owners. Prevention of marijuana use in the workplace being a major concern. If an employee has a legitimate medical reason, preventing use could result in a human rights tribunal claim for example. A certain degree of common sense has to prevail in these cases as well. A heavy equipment operator, for example, can’t operate machines under the influence of traditional pharmaceutical pain medications, the same policy should apply to marijuana as well.

If you have questions/concerns about medical marijuana included in your employee benefit plan, contact DENT Benefits today to connect with a group health benefit expert.

The information in this material is derived from various sources. Material is provided for general information and is subject to change without notice. Every effort has been made to compile this material from reliable sources; however, no warranty can be made as to its accuracy or completeness. Before acting on any of the above, please contact us for benefit, pension and insurance advice based on your corporate or personal circumstances.

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