WSIB’s New Policy: Cannabis for Medical Purposes
Effective March 1, 2019, the WSIB’s new Operational Policy Manual document, 17-01-10, Cannabis for Medical Purposes, sets out the circumstances in which medical cannabis may be necessary, appropriate, and sufficient health care treatment as a result of a work-related injury or disease.
The new medical cannabis policy applies to all purchases of medical cannabis and vapourizers made on or after March 1, 2019, for all accident dates. The new medical cannabis policy was posted on the WSIB website in advance on January 2, 2019 to allow stakeholders time to become familiar the policy.
When employees have a work-related injury or illness the function of the WSIB is to help the affected employee(s) recover and get back to work. This may include providing employees with health-care benefits and in some cases that may include medical cannabis.
To decide if the WSIB can include medical cannabis in the employee’s benefit coverage, the WSIB will review the following:
• whether the employee has one of the five designated work-related medical conditions in the policy.
• whether the employee has received a clinical assessment and medical cannabis treatment has been authorized by their treating health-care professional.
• if the employee has already tried appropriate conventional treatments for their work-related injury or illness.
Benefits versus Risks
A worker is not entitled to medical cannabis, where the risks outweigh the benefits, including:
• Where cannabis is contraindicated in the workers existing/current medical condition, or history. There are precautions present,
• There is a potential for adverse drug interactions,
• Or if the treatment may impede overall recovery.
The policy specifically defines certain circumstances where medical cannabis is contraindicated:
• Where the worker is below 25 yrs of age,
• Has a personal or family history of psychosis,
• Where the worker has had a current or past issue of substance use disorder. (including cannabis use disorder)
Why has the WSIB introduced the new policy?
• To support timely and consistent decisions regarding medical cannabis,
• To provide transparency about the circumstances in which entitlement to medical cannabis will be considered for a work-related injury or illness, and
• To allow entitlement to medical cannabis where it is safe and proven to have a therapeutic benefit.
Where entitlement to medical cannabis is allowed and the person is approved to take it using a vapourizer, the WSIB will cover the reasonable cost of the vapourizer, in addition to the reasonable cost of medical cannabis. Pre-approval from the WSIB must be obtained before purchasing medical cannabis or a vapourizer.
The policy applies to all purchases of medical cannabis or vapourizers for medical cannabis made on or after the policy takes effect.
How was the policy developed? How will it stay current after it takes effect?
To develop the policy, the WSIB conducted considerable research on medical cannabis which included existing scientific evidence and clinical guidance on medical cannabis, the compensation structure, and the federal access to medical cannabis scheme.
The WSIB plans to engage an independent third party to conduct a regular review of the scientific and clinical evidence on medical cannabis so that the work-related medical conditions listed in the policy remain reflective of the evidence for the therapeutic use of medical cannabis in the future. The WSIB will also conduct a review of the policy within two years of the date that the policy takes effect.
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