A common question I receive from benefit plan administrators is ‘how will medical marijuana affect our benefit plan’? Usually, it stems from plan members asking if their plan includes medical marijuana as part of the offering. Since the Liberal government’s legalization of the use of recreational marijuana in July 2018 is helping to fuel many of these discussions. So how does one go about managing employee benefit plans and medical marijuana? Medical Marijuana Facts
- medical cannabis has been legal in Canada since 1999
- Health Canada data shows that 167,000 Canadians were registered to purchase medical cannabis by the end of 2016
- as the numbers of Canadians with medical marijuana prescriptions grows, there is increased pressure for benefit plans to cover medical marijuana
- medical marijuana is not an approved drug under the Food and Drug Act which makes it difficult for insurers to process claims (no DIN)
- in 2015, CRA added medical cannabis to the list of medically exempt health products or services. This means that it can be claimed as an eligible health expense on your personal income tax return or eligible to be reimbursed through an employer-sponsored Health Spending Account.
- Medical marijuana is effective for three specific treatments: spasticity in Multiple Sclerosis patients, nausea reduction for chemotherapy patients, and relief of chronic pain
- very few plan sponsors have added medical marijuana to their benefit plans. Employees that have HSAs and a prescription are eligible to use this means for reimbursement