Pot: Coming Soon to a Benefits Plan Near You?

Jun 12, 2017

shisha-1869750_640(Surgeon General’s Warning: This series may cause more questions than answers.)

Smoke pot? Well, step right up because we have non-smoker’s life insurance rates for you! Say what? Yup, you read that right. Many life insurance companies declared that pot smokers are treated as non-smokers for insurance premium rating. If we follow this logic to conclusion, the endpoint for those in benefits land is that pot will soon be reimbursable as an eligible drug in your benefit plan. Never mind that inhaling smoke as a meds delivery system is completely counterintuitive. Add this to Federal Health Minister Philpott’s promise to legalize recreational use of this Class II drug by July 2018 and you might begin to suspect everyone involved has been indulging.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, so let’s clear the smoke and back up a bit. In this and upcoming posts we’ll survey current marijuana laws, the pending changes and how Medical Marijuana (MM) might someday land in your benefit plan.

Simply put, marijuana is made up of the flowers, buds and leaves of the plant, cannabis sativa. But it’s against the law to possess it, to grow it, sell it, or even give it away without permission from Health Canada, which has only recently approved it for medical conditions Health Canada has yet to define. This is alongside anecdotal evidence that supports medicinal efficacy in treating a variety of symptoms like extreme nausea, pain and decreased appetite. Many patients with AIDS, cancer and MS also report relief from their symptoms after using medical marijuana. That said, individuals with a documented health problem can buy a specified amount of cannabis and interestingly, in the United States, more than half of them allow MM use.

But getting back to Canada, our combined medicinal and recreational habit pegs us as one of the highest users in the world: that’s 30% of young adults and up to 15% of all adults use marijuana on a regular basis. That’s a significant statistic suggesting mainstream acceptance and a likelihood of even higher usage after legalization. 

Given this explosion in interest, numerous clinical trials have been initiated to move beyond anecdotal evidence. Studies of medical marijuana have, in fact, been going on for almost 50 years but most of this research involved the specific psychoactive compounds under controlled measurable doses. This is far removed from today’s reality of street sales or even what is offered at the corner store dispensary. Still, despite any momentum that may come from recreational use legislation, there will be considerable hurdles to overcome on the medical marijuana front. But assuming positive clinical trial outcomes, the potential market and the money at stake…seeing fully integrated medical marijuana is likely to be a not if but when scenario.

It’s little wonder that finance ministers are cheering from the sidelines, Doritos bag in hand, and dreaming of the tax windfall.

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