Pubdate: Fri, 03 Feb 2017
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Times Colonist
Author: Keith Doucette
Page: B4


HALIFAX - A human-rights board has determined a Nova Scotia man's
prescribed medical marijuana must be covered by his employee insurance
plan, a ruling that advocates said will likely have impact nationwide.

Gordon Wayne Skinner, of Head of Chezzetcook, suffers from chronic
pain following an on-the-job motor vehicle accident, and argued that
he faced discrimination when he was denied coverage.

In a decision Thursday, inquiry board chair Benjamin Perryman
concluded that since medical marijuana requires a prescription by law,
it doesn't fall within the exclusions of Skinner's insurance plan.

Perryman ruled the Canadian Elevator Industry Welfare Trust Plan
contravened the province's Human Rights Act, and must now cover his
medical marijuana expenses "up to and including the full amount of his
most recent prescription."

"Denial of his request for coverage of medical marijuana amounts to a
prima facie case of discrimination," the ruling states. "The
discrimination was non-direct and unintentional."

Deepak Anand, executive director of the Canadian National Medical
Marijuana Association, said the ruling is significant and could see a
number of people apply for coverage through their provincial human
rights commissions.

"If they could start to use this avenue to try to get their employers
or insurance providers to start covering it, I think that's going to
be significant and we are going to see more of that," said Anand.

Anand said he knew of one other instance where an insurance company
agreed to cover medical marijuana - for University of Waterloo student
Jonathan Zaid in 2015.

In the Nova Scotia decision, Perryman said the marijuana was medically
necessary for Skinner.

"Since the medical marijuana in this case was prescribed pain
management, it seems there is prima facie support for its medical
necessity, owing to the fact that conventional prescription pain
management drugs are normally eligible for coverage."

Anand said the reasoning is "significant on its own" because many
private and public insurers don't recognize cannabis and marijuana as
a medicine.

"They [the inquiry board] are finally recognizing that prescription
has some value, which so far the Canadian Medical Association and
others have decided not to look at," he said.

The ruling states the medical marijuana must be purchased from a
producer licensed by Health Canada or a person legally authorized to
produce for Skinner under the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes
Regulations. The claim must also be supported by an official receipt.

Skinner, a former elevator mechanic with Thyssen-Krupp Elevator
Canada, has been unable to work since the August 2010 accident. "I'm
elated, I'm still in shock it's really still sinking in to be honest
with you," Skinner said.

He argued his own case before the board last October after being
denied coverage three times, and said he hoped the inquiry board's
ruling would set a precedent. "Hopefully this will help other people
in similar situations and eliminate the fight that myself and my
family have had to endure and the hardship that this has resulted in."

Perryman found Skinner's chronic pain has been undermanaged as a
result of the denial of coverage, resulting in "profoundly negative
effects on the complainant and his family."

The Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association wouldn't comment on
Skinner's case, but said in general it's up to employers to decide if
they want to cover medical marijuana under their group medical plan.
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