Canadian CANNAINVESTOR Magazine May 2017 - Page 200

Additionally, some companies are incorporating cannabis into existing employee benefits plans which increases the possibility of potential patients who have held off on using cannabis as treatment for financial or other reasons to register with LPs. These benefits programs, coupled with a changing perception and public acceptance of medicinal cannabis, may aid in rapidly accelerating the number of registered patients in Canada.

Of note, Loblaw Companies Limited (“Loblaws”) and Shoppers Drug Mart (“Shoppers”) recently circulated an internal company memo to all of their employees indicating that the cost of medical cannabis will be covered up to a maximum of $1,500 a year. These two retail giants employ approximately 45,000 employees, who will now have the option, if needed, to treat various medical conditions or ailments with the use of medicinal cannabis. While the number of conditions that are permitted to be treated by cannabis under the plan is limited, Loblaws and Shoppers have indicated that they are prepared to consider expanding the covered conditions as time goes on2.

With industry leaders like Loblaws and Shoppers offering benefit plans such as these, we expect that many others will follow suit. The willingness of other companies to offer cannabis-related benefits may be driven either by growing social acceptance of the use of medicinal cannabis, to remain competitive in retaining and attracting new talent, or both. Regardless of the motivation, additional companies moving to cover the cost of medical cannabis is good news for LPs.

Benefit plans and mandatory coverage for medical cannabis is also being seen in the court and tribunal system. Recent judicial decisions are trending in the direction of making coverage mandatory, including a Nova Scotia Human Rights Board case where the Board concluded that a benefit plan’s refusal to cover medical cannabis for a disabled employee was a violation of the Human Rights Act. The Board directed the parties to attempt to negotiate an appropriate remedy, but as an interim remedy, required that the coverage for medical cannabis be covered up to and including the most recent prescription cost at the time of the hearing. Decisions like this are sure to be precedent-setting and we suspect will have an impact on employers’ planning and choices for benefits plans.

2Toronto Star, “Shoppers, Loblaw employees covered for medical marijuana