Nova Scotia court strikes down human rights decision over medical marijuana

Benefits plan didn't cover medical marijuana because drug isn't approved by Health Canada, not because of worker's disability
By The Canadian Press
|employmentlawtoday.com|Last Updated: 04/13/2018
Customer Care Assistant and Production Assistant Marsha McKenna grooms marijuana plant clones at Tweed Marijuana Inc in Smith's Falls, Ontario, February 20, 2014 REUTERS/Blair Gable

HALIFAX (CP) -- The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal has struck down a provincial human rights board decision that said an injured man's prescribed medical marijuana must be covered by his employee insurance plan.

Gordon "Wayne'' Skinner of Head of Chezzetcook, N.S., who suffers from chronic pain caused by an on-the-job vehicle accident, had argued he faced discrimination when he was denied coverage under the Canadian Elevator Industry Welfare Trust Plan.

Representatives for the plan had argued there was no coverage for prescription drugs not approved by Health Canada.

In February 2017, a human rights board of inquiry agreed with Skinner, saying medical marijuana didn't fall within the exclusions of the plan because it requires a prescription by law.

However, Nova Scotia's highest court has rejected that position, saying in a decision released today that the board erred in finding the lack of coverage discriminated against Skinner based on his disability.

The court says the plan did not cover medical marijuana because it was not approved by Health Canada, which the court said was a reasonable limit on benefits.

"It could not be automatically discriminatory for the trustees (of the plan) to impose reasonable limits on reimbursable benefits,'' the court's decision said.

"Mr. Skinner has access to all the medications available to any other eligible plan member. Mr. Skinner experienced an adverse impact because those medications were not effective for him personally _ not because he fell within a protected group described in the Human Rights Act.'

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