Pubdate: Fri, 03 Feb 2017
Source: National Post (Canada)
Copyright: 2017 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Sunny Freeman
Page: FP2



A Nova Scotia human rights board has ruled that a patient's medical
marijuana should be covered by his employee insurance plan in a
potentially precedent-setting case.

The decision, issued Jan. 30, ruled in favour of Gordon Skinner's
claim that he faced discrimination when trying to access insurance
coverage for his disability.

Independent human rights board of inquiry chair Benjamin Perryman said
that medical marijuana should be an eligible expense since it requires
a doctor's authorization and thus didn't fall within the plan's exclusions.

"Since medical marijuana was prescribed for pain management, it was
accepted that it is a medical necessity and should be covered," the
board said in a statement. "Conventional prescription pain management
drugs are normally eligible for coverage."

The Canadian National Medical Marijuana Association said it believes
the ruling is the first of its kind, a potentially precedent-setting
case that could open the door to wider coverage for cannabis patients.
"A human rights board has never taken this issue on in the past, at
least not in Canada, so that's huge," said Deepak Anand, executive
director of the CNMMA.

In 2015, student Jonathan Zaid convinced his university's insurance
provider to cover his medical marijuana expenses, but this is the
first time a government board has supported coverage, he said.

Insurers have been hesitant because marijuana doesn't have a Drug
Identification Number (DIN), which is the industry standard usually
required before a pharmaceutical is authorized for sale and

Aside from veterans, Canadian patients who use legal medical marijuana
must pay for their own drugs. Many patients believe cannabis is a
healthier and less addictive alternative to prescription drugs such as
opioids, which are covered by conventional insurance plans.

Patient groups and licensed medical marijuana producers alike have
been lobbying the federal government and insurance companies to have
their preferred drugs covered, which can cost patients hundreds of
dollars a week.

Skinner, of Chezzetcook, N.S., who suffers chronic pain following a
car accident, told the board he has been unable to work since. He said
marijuana has helped his condition better than conventional pain killers.

He was denied coverage for cannabis in May 2014 by his insurance
provider, the Canadian Elevator Industry Welfare Trust Fund.

Skinner's medical marijuana expenses will be covered "up to and
including the full amount of his most recent prescription."

In order to be covered, the drug must be purchased from one of the
Health Canada licensed medical marijuana producers or a person
authorized for Skinner under the law.
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