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Medical marijuana grower, Aurora Cannabis, will fund employee's legal case for insurance coverage

Topics: - Benefits
Jurisdiction: - Nova Scotia
Sector: - Health Care

On February 2, 2017 I posted that a Nova Scotia human rights board had ruled that an employee's medical marijuana must be covered by a workplace insurance plan. You can find the post and the human rights board's decision here.

It has now been announced that a licensed medical marijuana grower, Aurora Cannabis Inc., has committed to supporting the employee, Gordon "Wayne" Skinner, financially and with other resources in relation to an "appeal" to the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal that will be heard on October 2, 2017.

The announcement was made in a news release by the Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana (CFAMM).  CFAMM states that it is a non-profit patient advocacy organization founded in 2014 and that is dedicated to protecting and improving the rights of medical cannabis patients. CFAMM says it has been providing "strategic support" to Mr. Skinner in the case.

Mr. Skinner will be represented by disability lawyer, Hugh Scher of Scher Law Professional Corporation in Toronto. CFAMM is calling this "a potentially precedent-setting medical cannabis insurance coverage case."

Background

Mr. Skinner had been an elevator mechanic employed by ThyssenKrupp Elevator Canada.

On August 13, 2010, he was involved in a motor vehicle accident while working. As a result of this accident, he developed both a physical and mental disability and has been unable to work ever since that time.  When conventional prescription medications failed to provide sufficient relief for his conditions, Mr. Skinner's physician prescribed medical marijuna, which provided him superior symptom management compared to the previous treatment regimens.

Initially, the medical marijuana costs were covered by his motor vehicle insurer. But he reached the maximum limit of $25,000 of coverage offered under that insurance policy in May 2014 and so he sought coverage under his workplace plan  - the Canadian Elevator Industry Welfare Trust Plan (the "Welfare Plan") - pending his appeal to the Workers' Compensation Board, who had initially denied coverage.

The Welfare Plan provides health and related benefits for employees and former employees working in the unionized sector of the Canadian elevator industry. The Board of Trustees of the Canadian Elevator Industry Welfare Trust Fund (the "Trustees")is responsible for the management of the Welfare Plan.

The Trustees had denied the Mr. Skinner's request for coverage citing two reasons.

  1. medical marijuana had not been approved by Health Canada under the Food and Drugs Act and as such it does not receive a drug identification number. Accordingly, the Trustees reasoned that medical marijuana was not an approved drug under the terms of the Welfare Plan.
  2. since Mr. Skinner's disabilities were the result of a compensable workplace accident, the Trustees determined that any related medical expenses ought to be covered by a provincial medicare plan, and were therefore excluded from coverage under the Welfare Plan.

Human Rights Board's Decision

In a January 30, 2017 ruling, the human rights board concluded that the Trustees engaged in discrimination by denying Mr. Skinner coverage for the medical marijuana he uses to manage chronic pain and other conditions.

Aurora

Aurora is now providing financial and other support to Mr. Skinner. Its wholly-owned subsidiary, Aurora Cannabis Enterprises Inc., is a licensed producer of medical cannabis pursuant to Health Canada's Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations.

Aurora further states that it operates a 55,200 square foot, state-of-the-art production facility in Mountain View County, Alberta, and is currently constructing a second 800,000 square foot production facility, known as "Aurora Sky", at the Edmonton International Airport. It has also acquired, and is undertaking completion of, a third 40,000 square foot production facility in Pointe Claire, Quebec, near Montreal.

Aurora's common shares trade on the TSX-V, closing today at $2.53 a share.

In providing support to Mr. Skinner, Terry Booth, CEO of Aurora stated, "This is the right thing to do, and we're going to back CFAMM and Wayne Skinner all the way. It is a matter of fundamental fairness and equality that these patients should be able to rely on their benefits plans to support prescribed medical treatment."