The Highs And Lows Of The WSIB’s New Cannabis Policy
With the legalization of cannabis in Canada, the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) has finally addressed the use of medical cannabis for treatment of work-related injuries in the Policy Manual document issued on March 1, 2019. Noting that legalization of cannabis for medical use arrived in Canada in 2001, it has only taken the WSIB eighteen years to catch up. We finally have guidelines on when medical cannabis may be paid for by the WSIB. The policy starts off with following statement:
“Medical cannabis is not necessary, appropriate, or sufficient health care treatment for most medical conditions due to the lack of strong and consistent evidence of therapeutic efficacy, and the known harms of cannabis use. However, in limited circumstances, medical cannabis may be necessary, appropriate, and sufficient health care treatment as a result of a work-related injury/disease.”
It is pretty clear from this wording that the WSIB is taking very restrictive view of approving payment for such treatment. In fact the WSIB has provided a list of conditions that may potentially be covered as “designated conditions”.
The WSIB has included as a “designated condition” one of the following conditions for which there is evidence of the therapeutic efficacy of medical cannabis:
- neuropathic pain
- spasticity resulting from a spinal cord injury
- nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy
- loss of appetite associated with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), or
- pain and other symptoms experienced in a palliative setting;
Even if an injured worker has any of the above conditions and might be approved, the WSIB may declare such treatment “contraindicated” and thus deny the treatment for those under 25 years of age; those who have a personal or family history of psychosis; people with a past cannabis or other substance use disorder; or those with a history of cardiovascular, liver or kidney disease.
An additional requirement for approval is that the worker must have exhausted all other “conventional treatments” before medically prescribed cannabis will be authorized. Unfortunately it doesn’t end there. There are many other restrictions on the circumstances under which the WSIB would approve such treatment, by example, the WSIB does not approve consumption through smoking. Although the WSIB has finally addressed medical cannabis coverage, with the multitude of conditions, it is unlikely that very many injured workers would be approved for the treatment.
If you are on WSIB and considering medical cannabis treatment through the program it is a good idea to review the full list of requirements imposed by the WSIB on approving such treatment.
Have you been injured at work and denied WSIB? Our WSIB lawyers can help you through the appeal process. Contact us to see how we can help.
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