The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) has issued a policy on Cannabis for Medical Purposes which will come into effect on March 1, 2019. The policy provides guidance about when entitlements to medical cannabis will be approved by the WSIB for work related injury and illness.

A worker with a workplace injury or illness may be entitled to medical cannabis coverage provided the following criteria are met:

  1. A worker has one of the five designated work-related medical conditions in the policy. The five work-related medical conditions include: neuropathic pain, pain and other symptoms in palliative care, spasticity resulting from a spinal cord injury, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite associated with HIV or AIDS.
  2. An appropriate clinical assessment of the worker has been conducted.
  3. The worker's treating health professional authorizes medical cannabis to treat the designated condition.
  4. The worker has exhausted conventional treatments for the designated condition.
  5. The benefits of medical cannabis treatment for the worker outweighs the risks.
  6. The dose and route of administration authorized for the worker are appropriate.
  7. The worker has a valid document or a written order for medical cannabis.

If entitlement to medical cannabis is allowed:

  • The WSIB will pay for the reasonable costs of medical cannabis and, where appropriate, a vapourizer.
  • The WSIB will closely monitor and regularly review entitlement to ensure medical cannabis treatment remains necessary, appropriate, and sufficient for the work-related condition.

Employers need to be aware that cannabis is a treatment option for insurers, including the WSIB. With the introduction of the WSIB’s policy, and the legalization of recreational cannabis use, employers should expect group insurance plans to look at covering medical cannabis use.

Employers should not quickly dismiss employee requests seeking coverage through an insurance plan or WSIB for medically required cannabis use. Employers should also not quickly dismiss employee requests for accommodation by employees who require the use of cannabis. Each situation needs to be managed by human resources on an individualized basis.