An increasing number of employers across a broad range of Canadian industries are adding medical marijuana to their employee benefits plans.
Wider insurance coverage could breathe fresh life into the nation’s medical marijuana market, which has seen slowing patient growth for seven of the past eight quarters.
Alberta-based Aurora Cannabis is among the latest companies to add medical cannabis expenses to employee health benefits – a new plan to be administered by Sun Life Financial starting Aug. 1.
Sun Life, one of the largest insurance companies in the world, announced in February it would include medical cannabis as an option on its Canadian group plans – a major turning point in the insurance industry.
“Once it was available from a leading insurer, many employers were more comfortable adding medical cannabis coverage to their plans because of the structure and parameters the product offers,” said Jason Fleming, vice president of human resources for MedReleaf.
“Since then, a number of organizations have been adding this coverage.”
MedReleaf has included medical cannabis as part of its corporate health plan since 2017.
Last year, Manulife started providing medical marijuana benefits to 45,000 employees of Loblaw and Shoppers Drug Mart.
Others are more recent, including:
- The Ontario Public Service Employees Union will cover medical cannabis expenses for employees, up to $3,000 a year.
- The Canadian Arthritis Society launched an employer toolkit for medical cannabis coverage.
- A local branch of the construction union Labourers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) introduced medicinal marijuana coverage.
Meanwhile, Markers Financial has promised to cover any eligible applicant for medical cannabis without regard to health status – in what it says is an industry first in Canada.
The Toronto-based insurance provider will launch the product for individuals by mid-August, followed by a group product for companies wishing to provide benefits to employees, the company said in a news release.