The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario has found a litigant had no prospect of success in a claim that her employer-sponsored insurance plan was discriminating against her disability by refusing to pay for her medical cannabis.
Lisa Cabel, a lawyer at Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP, who represented the insurance company and employer sponsor, says the case shows that while the political climate around recreational marijuana has shifted, the terms of medical marijuana insurance contracts remain in effect.
“The climate change in the political view of marijuana didn’t change the contractual interpretation. It didn’t lead the tribunal to enhance somebody’s human rights because they wanted marijuana,” says Cabel. “The takeaway would be that the law still remains the same. . . . It wasn’t a surprise to me that the decision came down the way that it did.”
The Oct. 26 decision, R. R. v. Essex (County), 2018 HRTO 1535, involved a self-represented applicant against Corporation of the County of Essex and Green Shield Canada Inc., which administers health and dental care plans through contracts with employers such as Essex.
At issue in the summary hearing was whether any evidence could tie her disability to the decision to exclude medical cannabis coverage from the plan.
Essex, the employer that stipulated the benefits covered by the plan, said the decision was not tied to the disability, wrote Laurie Letheren, vice chairwoman of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, who dismissed the application.
Rather than being related to the nature of the employee’s disability, the decision said, Essex denied the medical cannabis coverage because the treatment lacked a Drug Identification Number assigned by Health Canada.