JAMESON BERKOW – CANNABIS INDUSTRY REPORTER
PUBLISHED MAY 7, 2019
OTTAWA, May 8, 2019 /CNW/ – Health Canada is introducing changes to align the approach to cannabis licensing with the approach for other regulated sectors, such as pharmaceuticals.
Effective immediately, Health Canada will require new applicants for licences to cultivate cannabis, process cannabis, or sell cannabis for medical purposes to have a fully built site that meets all the requirements of the Cannabis Regulations at the time of their application, as well as satisfying other application criteria.
With respect to existing applications, Health Canada will complete a high-level review of applications currently in the queue. If the application passes this review, the Department will provide a status update letter to the applicant, indicating that it has no concerns with what is proposed in the application. Once the applicant has a completed site that meets the regulatory requirements, the Department will review the application in detail, in priority based on the original application date.
Health Canada is implementing these adjustments following a review of its current licensing process, which identified opportunities to better allocate resources. For example, more than 70% of applicants who successfully passed Health Canada’s initial paper-based review of their application over the past three years have not yet submitted their evidence package to demonstrate to the Department that they have a built facility that meets the regulatory requirements. As a result, a significant amount of resources are being used to review applications from entities that are not ready to begin operations, contributing to wait times for more mature applications and an inefficient allocation of resources.
To support applicants, Health Canada has made available additional guidance on the licence application process and on the regulatory requirements regarding Good Production Practices and physical security measures. The Department is also working to establish service standards for the review of applications, which will increase predictability for applicants. Health Canada will continue to provide enhanced support to Indigenous-affiliated applicants through its Indigenous Navigator Service. It will also implement additional measures to support applicants applying for a micro-class licence.
These changes are part of Health Canada’s commitment to the continuous improvement of its administration of the cannabis licensing program. Building on changes made in 2017 and 2018, the new approach responds to feedback from applicants about the time it can take to become licensed and the fact that there is now a larger number of applicants seeking to enter a growing and maturing legal market.
Since the changes in May 2017, Health Canada has licensed more than 129 new sites—nearly triple the number of sites licensed in the four years prior. There are now more than 600,000 square metres of space under active cultivation. Based on standard industry averages, this is enough cultivation space to produce approximately 1,000,000 kilograms of cannabis per year, which is roughly equivalent to independent estimates of the total cannabis (legal and illegal) consumed in Canada.
There are no changes to the regulatory requirements, including the rigorous security clearance process for key personnel and corporate directors. Furthermore, Health Canada will continue to inspect all facilities before a licence to sell products to the public is issued.
Health Canada will continue to work closely with new and existing licence applicants to ensure that they are aware of the new application requirements.
SOURCE Health Canada
For further information: Health Canada, Media Relations, 613-957-2983, [email protected]; Public Inquiries, 613-957-2991, 1-866-225-0709
15 Essential Health Benefits of THC
By Rachel Garland, Anna Wilcox
on May 17, 2018
THC is one of the most extensively studied cannabinoids, and its medical properties are very real.
Do we really need THC – the most widely recognized component of cannabis?
This is the same compound that produces the “high” in cannabis.
It has generated more than its fair share of critics, and many believe that the compound has no medicinal value at all.
Yet, science has demonstrated this is far from the case.
In conjunction with other cannabinoids, the molecule has been found to help people deal with mental and physical ailments.
Not to mention many people find THC-rich products – when taken at just the right dosage – to be an effective supplement towards their everyday health.
Just check out these 15 health benefits of THC.
#1.) THC Provides Pain Relief
THC is a natural compound and infinitely safer than prescription painkillers.
Pain relief is one of the top medical benefits of THC, and I’ll tell you why…
More than 1.5 billion people worldwide live with chronic pain. Many of these individuals suffer from neuropathic pain or nerve-related pain.
Studies show that the cannabis compound activates pathways in the central nervous system that block pain signals from being sent to the brain.
Even an FDA-approved trial in 2013 confirmed THC’s effectiveness for pain relief.
Individuals experiencing neuropathic pain were given low doses of THC (1.29%) in the form of vaporized cannabis. The results?
“A low dose of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol provided statistically significant 30% reductions in pain intensity when compared to placebo.”
While clinical research continues to be restricted due to cannabis’s regretful status as a schedule I controlled substance – it is clear that a positive correlation exists between THC and pain relief.
#2.) Eases Nausea & Vomiting
Did you know that an FDA-approved THC pill (Marinol) for treating nausea and vomiting in cancer patients has been around since the 1980s?
In fact, Marinol has been marketed as a pharmaceutical alternative to cannabis.
However, while Marinol does contain delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound is both synthetic and isolated.
Which means that it pales in comparison to the entourage chemical compounds found in natural, whole-plant cannabis.
Marinol does not include beneficial components such as other cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids, all of which work better together rather than separately.
Interestingly, a study in 1995 revealed that oral doses of THC-8, a cannabinoid-like the regular THC but with lower psychotropic effects, were an effective treatment for children suffering from chemotherapy-induced nausea.
The only side effect found was slight irritability.
Considering that other nausea medications such as Zofran can lead to side effects like: diarrhea, headache, drowsiness, blurred vision, muscle spasms, rash, fever, and constipation just to name a few – THC-based therapies are a much safer option.
#3.) Protects Brain Cells
One of the biggest cannabis myths is that it kills brain cells. Science shows the exact opposite to be true.
Reefer madness led a lot of people to believe that cannabis consumption kills brain cells. However, the reality is this could not be further from the truth.
While most drugs are neurotoxic, THC is considered to be neuroprotectant. Which means that it actually protects brain cells from damage.
Here’s a mind-blowing example: a study in 2014 found that people with THC in their systems were 80 percent less likely to die from traumatic head injuries than those without.
#4.) Effective Sleep Aid
Have trouble sleeping? Research shows that THC health benefits play a role here as well.
Trials in the 1970s found that oral doses of the cannabinoid helped insomniacs fall asleep faster.
And that’s not all.
Recent research suggests it may also improve breathing while reducing sleep interruptions.
Great news for those suffering from conditions such as sleep apnea!
#5.) Helps Treat PTSD
It’s estimated that 8 percent of Americans (24.4 million people) currently suffer from PTSD.
To put that into perspective, this number is equal to the population of Texas.
PTSD can include symptoms such as agitation, severe anxiety, depression, insomnia, nightmares, and social isolation – it can be a crippling condition.
Yet, THC has shown to be a highly effective treatment option for PTSD.
Some psychiatrists say that THC-rich cannabis is the only treatment for PTSD.
In fact, studies have confirmed that THC eases a variety of PTSD-related symptoms including agitation, depression, insomnia, flashbacks, and nightmares.
This means that for those suffering from PTSD, they can finally get the peaceful sleep they need to heal and regain balance in their lives.
All they need is safe access to cannabis and guidance on how to best implement it into their lives.
#6.) Promotes Brain Growth
Believe it or not, the medical benefits of THC for the brain may be even bigger than we thought. Not only does the psychoactive protect brain cells, it also stimulates brain growth.
How does it work?
THC activates the “CB1 receptor” in our brains. This stimulation promotes a process known as long-term potentiation which improves the brain’s ability to learn.
Scientists also discovered that like CBD, THC causes brain cells in the hippocampus to grow.
Some research even suggests that THC can protect spatial memories.
This is why small doses of cannabis can treat or even slow down diseases such as Alzheimer’s. THC can also help protect against Alzheimer’s in other ways, too.
If that weren’t enough, we also have a study showing people with THC in their systems are 80% more likely to survive head trauma!
#7.) THC Increases Appetite
Cannabis can also help you digest your meals through increased gastrointestinal motility.
Conditions such as HIV, eating disorders, hepatitis, and dementia can lead to a loss of appetite.
Over time, this can result in severe malnourishment or even death.
THC is known for increasing appetite.
Researchers have found that THC interacts with the same type of receptors in the hypothalamus that release the hormone ghrelin, which stimulates hunger. In fact, THC can even make food taste better.
While some have written off these effects as a case of the “munchies” there is something much more profound going on here.
With the right approach, THC hunger-inducing effects can dramatically improve quality of life. And in some cases, even save lives.
Interestingly, certain cannabis cultivars can also suppress appetite, which can be another advantage for a lot of people.
#8.) Enhances Senses
You may not consider this among the other THC health benefits, but hear me out…
Many people have steered away from THC due to its psychoactive effects.
In fact, a lot of prohibitionists claim this is what makes cannabis so “dangerous” in the first place.
However, people have been enjoying the psychoactive components of the cannabis plant for thousands of years.
Cultures across the globe incorporated the plant in spiritual ceremonies and rituals for this very purpose.
While the psychoactive effects of THC may not agree with everyone, that doesn’t mean we all should steer clear.
Especially given that it is impossible to fatally overdose on THC.
Cannabis used with intention and the right dosage levels provides countless benefits.
From life-changing revelations to enhanced creativity to deeper personal insights.
For many people, the enhancing effects of THC provide very real psychological benefit and relief.
#9.) THC is Antibacterial
Did you know that one reason cannabis plants produce THC is to protect itself from pathogens?
As it turns out, the cannabinoid may do the same for humans and animals.
In a rodent study published in Plos One discovered that treating mice with dietary THC effectively changed their gut microbes over time.
In this particular case, the cannabinoid changed the gut microbes of obese mice into a microbial community more similar to lean mice.
But, that’s not all.
In 2008, researchers at MIT discovered that treating a concerning antibiotic-resistant pathogen with the psychoactive successfully killed the bacteria when other drugs could not.
The bacteria in question was Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which causes serious gaping wounds when left untreated.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, antibiotic-resistant infections contribute to “two million illnesses and 23,000 deaths” each year.
Will this herb’s main component help? It’s certainly worth some investigation.
There’s a reason why cannabis has been touted as an anti-aging and anti-stress tool.
THC and other cannabinoids are potent antioxidants.
This isn’t surprising, considering that in addition to protecting cannabis plants from pathogens, the herb increases its THC production in response to UVB light.
UVB light is the type of light that causes oxidative stress in humans, contributing to visible aging and other skin diseases.
Oxidative stress can cause damage at both cellular and DNA levels.
This damage makes consumers more prone to serious ailments like cancer and neurodegenerative illness.
As a potent antioxidant, one of the many health benefits of THC is protecting the body from stress-related damage.
Inflammation is a hot topic in the healthcare world these days.
Chronic inflammation is considered a major risk factor for all different kinds of diseases.
Depression? There’s an inflammatory component.
Arthritis? Inflammation contributes to pain, stiffness, and poor health over time.
Many canna-curious individuals opt for CBD to control inflammation. However, THC has a part to play as well.
Research suggests that, in some instances, the cannabis compound can decrease the production of cytokine and chemokine compounds in the body.
Cytokine and chemokines are immune compounds that trigger inflammation.
Additional pre-clinical research suggests that it may be able to decrease inflammation by suppressing genes related to inflammatory response.
These findings may explain why so many consumers find relief via the many health benefits of THC.
Lung health is not often the first thing you think of when considering the health benefits of THC.
Yet, believe it or not, the compound may help open airways in your lungs.
A known bronchodilator, studies conducted back in 1975 provided the first evidence of the cannabinoid’s ability to ease asthma attacks.
Interestingly, the study found that even smoked cannabis eased patent’s asthma symptoms. Though, a study of this kind certainly wouldn’t be highly thought of today.
However, some budding biopharmaceutical companies are experimenting with cannabis-based drugs for serious conditions like asthma and COPD.
Others are investigating inhaler technologies that would allow consumers to inhale measured doses of cannabis compounds without smoke.
However, the psychoactive may not be the only cannabis compound that may assist the lungs.
A particular terpene, pinene, may enhance the bronchodilatory effect of THC.
As the name suggests, pinene is an aroma molecule that provides a strong pine scent to some cannabis cultivars.
Cannabis strains that feature high levels of pinene may provide enhanced bronchodilatory effects.
#13.) Potential anti-tumor agent
Although cannabis is not a cure-all, it is a game-changer for cancer patients.
Cannabis is making waves in the realm of cancer research.
Early research in the lab and in animal models has found that the herb kills cancer cells in several distinct ways.
While multiple cannabinoids show anti-cancer potential, THC is one of the main contenders.
Dr. Gregory Smith, a Harvard-trained physician, discussed this with Green Flower, touching on emerging evidence that suggests that the psychoactive and other cannabis compounds have strong anti-cancer potential.
Specifically, Dr. Smith mentioned that there three distinct ways that cannabis affects cancer.
The first is through a process called apoptosis, which is an immune function that triggers cells to self-destruct when they are damaged or diseased.
“[Cannabis] does that apoptosis, that horrible word, that tells the cancer cell to go kill itself. It’s literally a key that turns a lock and tells the cell to kill itself,” said Dr. Smith.
But, that’s not all.
In laboratory models, the cannabinoid can block a tumor from forming blood vessels.
This essentially starves the cancer cells by cutting off their food and oxygen supply.
In addition, cannabis compounds seem to stop cancer cells from metastasizing.
As Dr. Smith explained, “It stops the cancer cell from leaving the colony of other cancer cells and going and forming its own new metastatic area in the body.”
“All three of these things are well known,” continued Smith, “and it’s mostly THC that has the anticancer effects.”
#14.) Muscle relaxant
Have you ever tried cannabis that made you feel sleepy or heavy-bodied?
THC and some complementary terpenes in certain cannabis strains may be the culprit.
It is well-known that the cannabinoid can have muscle relaxant properties.
This quality is perhaps partly why the compound is so beneficial to patients with conditions like multiple sclerosis, who often experience muscle spasticity, pain, and cramping.
In fact, a cannabis-based medicine for these exact symptoms is already on the market in over 30 countries.
The medicine, called Sativex, contains both THC and CBD.
While THC is thought to have muscle relaxant properties on its own, the molecule’s ability to ease cramps and tension may be enhanced by certain aroma compounds in the plant.
Some experts suggest that myrcene, a terpene aroma molecule with a musky fragrance, may also contribute to the heavy-bodied sensation that sometimes follows a night of cannabis consumption.
#15.) THC is an Anticonvulsant
In the world of epilepsy, CBD often gets all the credit.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-intoxicating relative to THC, and the cannabinoid has successfully reduced seizure activity in clinical trials.
Many fail to realize, however, that THC also has anticonvulsant properties.
Research on the anticonvulsant properties of THC has been more or less halted due to all of the interest in CBD.
However, early research on the cannabinoid tells a different story.
Studies conducted in the 70s found that the psychoactive compound successfully reduced seizures in animal models, including baboons.
One small study conducted in the 1940s found that THC treatment successfully reduced seizures in two of five epileptic children that were unresponsive to conventional treatment.
In this early research, was THC effective 100% of the time?
However, this early research suggests that the cannabinoid is certainly worth learning more about.
If you agree that people deserve access to all parts of the cannabis plant, please share this article with your friends and followers. Together, we can spread the message of cannabis education.
Sourced from: Green Flower
link to original article: 15 Health Benefits of THC
The Canada Revenue Agency allows for cannabis purchased under prescription to be claimed as a “medical expense” deduction.
By Jane Switzer • Mar 19, 2019
Green bud, grey area: Medical cannabis consumers buy products directly from licensed producers, but they must pay for it out of pocket – sometimes to the tune of hundreds of dollars a month.
Medical cannabis generally isn’t covered by third-party health insurance plans because it doesn’t have a drug identification number (DIN), a regulatory stamp of approval issued by Health Canada. Sun Life became the country’s first major insurance company to offer optional coverage for medical cannabis in 2018, while Manulife also launched optional coverage for participating individual and group plans in partnership with Shoppers Drug Mart. A handful of employers may offer some type of coverage through their employee group benefit plans, but for many consumers, the only opportunity for financial relief comes through the taxman.
The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) allows for cannabis purchased under prescription to be claimed as a “medical expense” deduction on your federal income taxes. Here’s how it works:
Who qualifies to claim medical cannabis?
Anyone with a prescription from an authorized medical practitioner to purchase cannabis from a licensed producer. Producers are legally required to issue receipts, which you’ll need come tax filing time. Hold on to the paper copies, or find out how to access your receipts online. In case of an audit or review, the CRA recommends keeping receipts for six years.
What can you claim?
The amount paid for fresh or dried cannabis, cannabis oils, and cannabis seeds and plants procured from a licensed producer – basically, product only. You cannot claim costs related to growing or accessories such as lights, containers and other storage, fertilizers, vaporizers, pipes, capsules, or capsule filler machines.
How do you file?
Check your receipts and tally up the amount you spent on medical cannabis, and add the total to any other allowable medical expenses you plan to claim on your T1 Income Tax and Benefit Return, the most basic form filed by individual Canadians to complete their income tax return. If your return is prepared by a professional, submit your receipts to them. If you use tax software to complete your return, you’ll be prompted to enter your medical expenses in the deductions and credits section.
Medical expenses don’t have to be calculated by the calendar year, but by any 12-month period ending in the current tax year (2018). If you already claimed these expenses on your last tax return, you can’t claim them again.
What gets deducted?
Your total eligible medical expenses minus the lesser of $2,302, or 3% of your net income (your income after taxes). Depending on how much you make and amount of medical expenses claimed, the threshold can be high. Here are two examples using different incomes and the same $2,500 in medical expenses:
If your net income is $70,000, you must deduct $2,100 from your total medical expenses. You will receive a credit of $400.
If your net income is $30,000, you must deduct $900 from your total medical expenses. You will receive a credit of $1,600.
Each province and territory has different tax laws and policies, but you only have to submit one return through the CRA. Except for Quebec, all provinces and territories let the federal government collect income taxes and administer the returns. Quebec residents file both a provincial income tax return with Revenu Québec and a federal return with the CRA.
The deadline to file your income tax return for the 2018 year is April 30, 2019, or by June 17 if you’re self-employed.
Sourced from: Lift & Co.
On the eighth episode of The Fear of Science, hosts Jeff Porter and Daniel Chai talk about weed and weed culture with Terry Roycroft CEO of MCRCI and comedian Kyle Bottom. Find out what has changed after legalization in Canada and the advances in medicinal marijuana science.
‘The Fear of Weed’
MCRCI is excited to be teaming up with Integrative Alternative Health Service (IAHS) in Red Deer, Alberta! We are happy to be able to offer our industry leading experience to patients in Red Deer and surrounding areas.
MCRCI is joining forces with IAHS; taking over their medicinal cannabis service, adding, support, resources and experience. We will be offering our services to patients (new & old) at IAHS including both our Basic and Production memberships.
IAHS’ mission is to transform how Health & Wellness is perceived through integrative therapies & education focused on Mind, Body & Soul. Bringing these services to your front door. IAHS offers service across Central Alberta so call them today at 587.679.4247 for more information.
Our services through IAHS include:
Evaluation of a patient’s eligibility for medicinal cannabis
Access to Health Canada & ACMPR program
Additional support, as needed, for patients under 18 and patients with no previous
Support from MCRCI educators in understanding the advantages of different licensed
producers and their products
Support from MCRCI educators on cannabis as a medicine, strains, and administration
The arrangement of appropriate follow-up visits with the physician
Adjustments in a cannabis treatment program as needed, to include changes in daily
amounts authorized, re-issuing of medical documents, and additional documentation
Assistance in responding to employer concerns regarding the use of cannabis for
Access to MCRCI educators for ongoing support and guidance
Guidance in the federal ACMPR program
Information regarding dispensaries and/or compassion clubs
Timely reminders to renew ACMPR authorization
Discounts on accessories and products (books, vaporizers, etc.)
“(Dr. Ian) Mitchell, who is participating in a randomized controlled study on the effects of cannabis on patients with post-traumatic stress syndrome, said a lot of what is known about the harms of marijuana also comes from observational data.
He also noted randomized controlled studies examining the benefits of marijuana have been suppressed for decades due to a research blockade in the U.S.”
Read more: Kamloops This Week
The Medicinal Cannabis Resource Centre Inc. is now open in Halifax, Nova Scotia!
MCRCI is now coast to coast across Canada after having opened our doors in Halifax.
We are excited to have the opportunity to assist patients on the East Coast offering our education and guidance in medicinal cannabis and Health Canada’s Access to Medicinal Purposes Regulations (ACMPR) program.
MCRCI began our commitment to helping patients in 2010 opening our first location in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Since then we have been able to open our doors into 2 more BC cities, Vernon and Kamloops allowing us to help patients in the Okanagan Valley and surrounding areas.
Our move to Halifax has been something that we have been working toward since our initial opening in 2010. We are very proud to now have our feet on the ground on the East Coast! After spending time in Nova Scotia, our team has met wonderful individuals who we believe are a great representation of the patients we will be meeting moving forward.
We encourage anyone who is interested in learning more about cannabis as a medicine to contact us at our new Halifax location:
128 – 1535 Dresden Row
Phone: 902 405 5553
Email: [email protected]
Fax: 902 417 1413
Information released July 2018
For the full PDF version, please follow this link: Complete Provincial Breakdown for Cannabis Regulations – July 2018
As recreational cannabis legalization draws closer, some companies are missing the mark when it comes to employer training.
Last Friday, the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade hosted ‘Cannabis in the Workplace’—a discussion to address employer concerns regarding the changes to federal and provincial laws.
With a two-hour time limit, the event set out to answer the not-so-simple question: “What do employers need to be considering and how do they need to be preparing now for legal cannabis and the workplace?”
It’s important to note that while medical cannabis has been legal for nearly two decades, the number of Canadians now registered in the federal program has shot up to over 230,000, leaving employers scrambling to update their policies and educate supervisors.
Barring a few pot quips and iterations of uncertainty, the conference fell dramatically short of providing much clarity. What could have been an opportunity to outline cannabis-specific policy changes and accommodations for employees with medical prescriptions, dissolved quickly into a vague Q & A period urging employers to turn their focus toward risk mitigation and potential lawsuits.
To clarify the details, keynote speaker Solicitor General Mike Farnworth opened the luncheon with a bullet point overview of the new regulatory framework, in which he made it very clear that there will be zero tolerance for impairment in the workplace. “Employees have a duty to come to work sober and nothing about cannabis legalization will change that,” he said. The term ‘impairment’ stuck and dictated the conversation throughout the remaining panel discussion.
Right out of the gate, Dave Earle, CEO of the B.C. Trucking Association, reaffirmed employer attention needs to stay on the issue of cannabis abuse in the workplace. “For employers that don’t believe you have a substance use issue in your workplace, I’m going to break it to you…you do,” he said.
While impairment is absolutely a pressing concern, especially in safety sensitive work environments, most of the policies the panel went on to address already exist to tackle substances like alcohol or prescription medication, even cannabis.
Taking on the human rights angle, Cindy Zheng, a lawyer with McQuarrie Hunter LLP, warned employers of potential violations where underlying medical conditions exist. It seemed the conversation was about to take the right turn, but after continuously linking cannabis with cocaine and alcohol, however, she failed to specifically address what it means to accommodate up to the point of undue hardship—the threshold set by the B.C. Human Rights Legislation.
Zheng went on to suggest employers fall back on existing alcohol and tobacco policies, until, that is, they run into discrepancies.
“We would recommend an outright prohibition on site,” she says. Later adding, “if there is a distinction, and I’m not saying there should be, but if there is, make sure you have an articulate and reasonable basis for that distinct treatment of cannabis.”
Excluding the fundamental distinction that should be made from a medical standpoint, the number of reasons to encourage employers to understand the difference between alcohol and cannabis are seemingly endless. Let’s start with addiction rates, behavioural tendencies and overall health implications, and see if we can find a “reasonable basis” somewhere in there.
Mike Kilgallin, a partner at Rober Greyell LLP, urged employers use their own judgement when it comes to swift action, or at least until science provides a more suitable alternative.
“While we may not be able to definitively prove somebody is impaired, we want to say “there is a risk” and we want to remove [that individual] from the workplace,” says Kilgallin.
“There are going to be a lot of level-headed employees who are going to understand [expectations] and who are going to not turn the lunch room into a hotbox,” Kilgallin added. “Focus on the small few, the ones who create problems.”
It wasn’t made clear if the trouble-makers he was referring to included medical cannabis patients or just potheads who now felt empowered by the new legislation to get stoned mid-shift. One would assume the latter, but since there was hardly any reference throughout the entire conversation to dealing with medical users, it was hard to tell.
One quick-fix posed by the panelists was the integration of a self-disclosure policy. Employees would be encouraged to go on record with their addiction and dependency issues in order to protect themselves and the company. The idea here is that if the issue is not disclosed pre-incident, they would not be entitled to safeguards like rehabilitation and graduated reintegration programs.
CEO of the Medical Cannabis Resource Centre Inc., Terry Roycroft, suggests this policy, made infamous by a lawsuit won by Elk Valley Coal in Alberta last year, won’t do much when it comes to cannabis. “That would be a very difficult thing to ask,” says Roycroft. “Most people aren’t going to consider even high recreational use an addiction.”
Roycroft, who is now in the process of helping several patients apply for cannabis coverage under their workplace medical insurance, says that companies have several options to work with their employees.
“There are products that can be prescribed by a doctor that will not get them impaired,” says Roycroft. Going one step further, one of the areas MCRCI specializes in is creating specific healthcare programs for individuals based on their condition and day-to-day demands. “We can work with their HR departments […] and make recommendations of when they could use psychoactive THC and when they would be safe to go back to work or safe to drive after that usage.”
Unfortunately, it seems some companies still have a long way to go before understanding the dire need to work with their employees in this new cannabis-friendly country. “Medical marijuana is just another substance,” said Earle. “You have to treat it like any other substance.” If that’s the level from which employers are to start their education, it will be a long and treacherous journey to a new workplace culture.
by Piper Courtenay on March 10th, 2018 at 10:00 AM
TORONTO — Sun Life Financial Inc. is adding medical marijuana coverage as an option for its group benefits plans, signalling an insurance industry shift and growing acceptance of the drug that bodes well for Canada’s burgeoning cannabis sector.
The Toronto-based insurer’s president and chief executive Dean Connor said the move was influenced by rising interest from Sun Life’s employer clients.
“Medical marijuana has become a very important part of their treatment program and pain management program,” said Connor, referring to patients who have cancer, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, or those requiring palliative care.
Currently, the vast majority of registered patients must pay for medical marijuana out of their own pockets. But the move by Sun Life, which provides health benefits coverage to more than three million Canadians and their families, or one-in-six Canadians, could set a precedent for other insurers.
The new offering comes as the country moves to legalize cannabis for recreational use later this year and as the number of registered medical marijuana patients grows. There were more than 235,000 medical marijuana patients in the system across Canada at the end of September 2017 — the most recent date for which data is available — more than double the roughly 98,500 a year earlier, noted Vahan Ajamian, a Beacon Securities Ltd. research analyst.
“The insurance companies have been getting pressure to cover this as a regular medicine,” he said.
Meanwhile, pharmacists and pharmacies have also been warming up to cannabis.
Shoppers Drug Mart has lined up supply agreements with licensed producers, conditional upon Health Canada’s approval of its application to dispense the drug. The Canadian Pharmacists Association and two Quebec groups representing the industry have also said that pharmacies should play a leading role in medical marijuana’s distribution.
Jonathan Zaid, the executive director of patient advocacy group Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana, said Sun Life’s enhanced coverage comes after years of litigation to gain acceptance for medical marijuana.
“Although there may not be immediate benefit for patients as specific plan sponsors will need to purchase the coverage, this move will make covering medical cannabis simpler than today’s exception process and speaks volumes to the broader acceptance and legitimacy of medical cannabis,” he said.
A number of plan sponsors have moved to cover medical cannabis costs over the years, Zaid noted, including the University of Waterloo’s student union, the Arthritis Society, Loblaw Companies Ltd., the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), and the Labourers’ International Union of North America. Those plans have varying eligibility criteria and levels of coverage, he added.
Starting March 1, plan sponsors with Sun Life will have the option to add medical cannabis coverage to extended health-care plans, ranging from $1,500 to $6,000 per covered person per year.
Medical cannabis coverage will be available for specific conditions and symptoms associated with cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, HIV-AIDS, and palliative care.
In order to qualify for coverage, Sun Life plan members must meet specific criteria including an authorization letter from a physician and registration with a medical marijuana producer licensed with Health Canada.
Sun Life will also conduct periodic reviews of the growing body of clinical research supporting the use of medical cannabis for other conditions, and update its criteria if necessary, the company said in a document updating their client base of 22,300 plan sponsors.
Although this coverage does not encompass the full range of conditions and it is unclear how many businesses will use it, the insurer’s new offering is a positive development for Canada’s licensed medical marijuana producers, said Ajamian.
“Anything that makes it easier/cheaper for patients to get access should result in more patients, more volume, and (especially if it’s free) potentially more pricing power for producers,” he said in an email.
Manulife Financial Corp., one of Canada’s biggest insurers, offers medical cannabis coverage to clients on a selective basis, a spokesperson said.
“Manulife is supportive of clients that want to consider introducing medical cannabis as an option,” the spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “We also recommend that clients put limits and some management controls in place as this is an emerging market that is quickly evolving.”
As acceptance among insurers and employers appears to grow, a landmark battle over coverage of medical marijuana that helped add to the public conversation remains in the hands of the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal.
In October 2016, ThyssenKrupp Elevator Canada elevator mechanic Gordon Skinner went before the province’s Human Rights Tribunal over his union’s denial of coverage for his prescribed medical marijuana. The Nova Scotia man was injured in a motor vehicle accident in August 2010 while working, and was later prescribed medical cannabis to help with chronic pain. In January 2017, the tribunal ruled that the Board of Trustees of the Canadian Elevator Industry Welfare Trust Fund discriminated against Skinner, and ruled that his employer must cover medical marijuana.
The union took the case to the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal last fall, and Skinner is now awaiting the final ruling, said his counsel Hugh Scher.
Scher is optimistic about the outcome and noted Sun Life’s new offering is “a very positive development in the sense of recognizing the efficacy of medical marijuana, and attempting to provide for a means of enabling employers and insurers to address that need.”
Companies in this story: (TSX:SLF, TSX:MFC)
Armina Ligaya, The Canadian Press, Feb. 15, 2018.