As of March 1, 2019, the WSIB’s new policy will apply to all requests for entitlement to medical marijuana. Prior to this, the WSIB was adjudicating on a case-by-case basis.
This new policy simply means that the WSIB has formalized its adjudication of this ‘new’ drug, and that the policy will apply to all appeals heard by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal (“WSIAT”).
WSIB Policy No. 17-01-10, “Cannabis for Medical Purposes” identifies a list of requirements to assess eligibility for medical cannabis. Coverage for medical cannabis through the WSIB is currently restricted to five (5) specific, clinically established conditions listed below.
To be considered for eligibility, a worker must pass a threshold test; disqualification factors include being under the age of 25 and have a current or past substance use disorder.
If the worker is not disqualified, the WSIB uses the following criteria to assess eligibility for coverage:
- The worker is diagnosed with one of the following five (5) conditions as a result of a work-related injury/disease:
- neuropathic pain,
- spasticity resulting from a spinal cord injury,
- chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting,
- loss of appetite associated with HIV or AIDS, and
- pain and other symptoms in palliative care;
- The worker has received an appropriate clinical assessment and has a valid medical document or a written order for medical cannabis from a health professional (physician or nurse practitioner);
- Conventional treatments for the diagnosed condition have been exhausted;
- The potential therapeutic benefits of cannabis for the worker outweigh the risks; and
- The dose and route of administration (such as vaporizing or taking oils) should be appropriate for the worker, beginning at the lowest possible dose and proceeding slowly. Note: if the approved delivery method is vapourizing, the WSIB may grant entitlement to the equipment (vapourizer every 2 years) but does not cover any other devices or paraphernalia.
The WSIB will cover reasonable costs of medical cannabis if the eligible worker obtains it from a licensed holder. The WSIB will not reimburse a worker for cannabis grown personally or purchased from a recreational cannabis retailer.
If entitlement is allowed under a WSIB claim, the safety and suitability of RTW placement/offers will include the potential impairment effect of the cannabis treatment. This would be the same as for any prescribed medication (e.g. opioids). As always, it is important that a worker’s medical practitioner is aware of the job demands associated with the worker’s pre-injury job or modified work so that the safety of the worker and workplace is maintained regardless of whether the WSIB grants entitlement for the ‘drug’ or not.
For additional information and resources on this topic see the medical cannabis page and explanatory note on the WSIB website found here.