Article by Solomon Israel, CBC News
At first glance, the news was “actually pretty stunning.”
Joan Weir, director of health and disability policy with the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association, was surprised to see that Canadian retail giant Loblaw Companies had started covering medical marijuana for employees through their health benefit plans back on March 28.
After taking a closer look at the limitations of Loblaw’s coverage, Weir said her astonishment diminished somewhat. The company is only covering medical marijuana used to treat the symptoms of multiple sclerosis, as well as the side-effects of chemotherapy for cancer patients, and only up to $1,500 per year.
“I don’t think it’s a game-changer yet,” she said.
Still, Weir said Loblaw is now the first large Canadian employer to cover medical marijuana under a benefits plan.
As the federal government charges towards legalization, Loblaw’s move hints at a possible future trend in employee insurance benefits.
45,000 employees covered
It’s not hard to imagine why Loblaw might be willing to cover medical marijuana: the company’s Shoppers Drug Mart division has applied to Health Canada for the licence needed to sell legal medical marijuana.
In a statement, Loblaw spokesperson Tammy Smitham said the company was “adapting to changes in the area of drug therapies.”
“More robust clinical evidence supporting the use of medical marijuana as a treatment for some specific conditions has emerged and we felt the time was right to make this addition to our benefits plan,” said Smitham.