Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Board must pay for Medical Marijauna

In decision 2007/07 the Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal approved the worker's reimbursement for medical marijuana.

The Workplace Safety and Insurance Act specifically outlines in Section 33 (1):

"A worker who sustains an injury is entitled to such health care as may be
necessary, appropriate and sufficient as a result of the injury and is entitled to make the
initial choice of health professional for the purposes of this section
. "

In his decision the Vice Chair of the Tribunal stated:

"In my view, that the Board’s decision to deny this particular aspect of the worker's
claim is based more on a general reluctance to consider marijuana as a legitimate alternative to
more traditional pharmaceuticals in the treatment of pain, than it is on any consideration of
whether this type of treatment might be of value to the worker."

In this case the worker was awarded a 30% Non economic Loss award for his low back injury. The medical evidence supported that the worker continued to have ongoing significant symptoms of pain in the back and lower extremity. All conventional forms of treatment were exhausted and ineffective.

Each case must be dealt with on its own merits and the Vice Chair noted that the wording of Section 33 is broad and provides the Board and the Tribunal with a significant discretion in determining the type of health care which may be necessary in a particular case. Equally broad discretion was noted in the Board's policy. The Board's policy lists types of health care benefits but also includes "such measures to improve the quality of life of severely impaired workers". While the policy does not define a "severely impaired worker", the Vice Chair placed significant weight on the fact that Health Canada approved access to marijuana.

The legislation governing Health Canada allows marijuana to be prescribed to individuals who suffer from " grave or debilitating illnesses, where conventional treatments are inappropriate or not providing adequate relief". After reviewing the medical information and the grounds for access to marijuana by Health Canada, the Vice Chair was satisfied that this worker can be described as “severely impaired” as a result of his compensable back injury. The request was not being made by the worker to support a habit but for pain relief.

The Vice Chair held that there was sufficient discretion in both the legislation and policy and granted the reimbursement for the cost of marijuana.

Another small but positive step for injured workers.

1 comment:

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