WCB has been cautious in its approach to the reported therapeutic benefits of cannabis. But a recent ruling by the Appeals Commission might change the calculus.
For a long while now cannabis has enjoyed a renaissance in public opinion. The high drama of pot stocks shooting up and crashing down feels like ancient history. The mammoth grow-ops flanking the QEll run at full capacity to pump out product to a global market, whilst corporate execs seem to have worked out most of the supply-chain, logistical and distribution kinks. Weed shops have suddenly become ubiquitous. If your constitution is so inclined, you can saunter into any number of local cannabis retailers and be treated to a curated tour of strains that promise to make you smarter, more energetic, funnier, or conversely, reveal latent introspective qualities that’ll have you reaching for a Bob Marley LP. And all this in the time it takes to grab a jug of milk.
Indeed, marijuana’s bad boy image has been yanked from the shadows, given a haircut and forced to work a real job. The leafy icon of rebelliousness, so cherished by the countless millions attracted to its forbidden appeal, has finally been assimilated into the mainstream Establishment. Because, as it turns out, the beloved Mary Jane of our youth offers so much more than mere thrills. For many people in fact, medical cannabis has reportedly become something of a life saver.
And so, considering the wholesale institutional embrace, you might suppose that medical cannabis would be regarded as something greater than a naughty party drug.
But you’d be wrong.
At least, the WCB has been reluctant to hop on the bandwagon, as the Board has been known to reject cannabis (perhaps justifiably at times) as a good option for injured workers. To be fair, legalization has invited furious debate concerning how the drug is to be dosed and marketed, and furthermore, peer-reviewed clinical trials are scarce (but growing in number by the day). Which is why, perhaps, WCB’s medical consultants continue to regard cannabis as a non-standard, experimental medical aid. But Decision No: 2021-0589 rendered by the Appeals Commission this month could impact entitlement decisions moving forward.
As described in the ruling, in January of 2016, a service manager injured his back on a piece of equipment. WCB accepted responsibility for radiculopathy that required surgical fusion, but would later deny coverage for the use of medicinal cannabis under this claim. Based on his review of the research, the medical consultant concluded that the “overwhelming evidence in the medical literature (did) not support there being a high degree of efficacy for cannabinoid or derivatives.” In 2021, the Dispute Resolution and Decision Review Body confirmed WCB’s decision that cannabis isn’t a drug with objective clinical value in this particular case.
This position went against the recommendations of the worker’s general practitioner, orthopedic surgeon, anesthesiologist and pain specialist, all of whom supported the worker’s use of CBD oil. And the worker himself professed that cannabis improves his pain, allows him to participate in day-to-day activities, and reports that CBD has had a “hugely positive impact on his life.”
Given the facts, the Appeals Commission found sufficient evidence to “indicate the medicinal cannabis’s expected beneficial effects on human health outweigh its expected harmful effects.” The Commission also noted that it wasn’t “satisfied that the medical consultant appropriately considered the worker’s individual clinical evidence.” Thus, the worker’s appeal was allowed therefore entitling him to medical aid in the form of medicinal cannabis derivatives. The March 26, 2021 Dispute Resolution and Decision Review Body decision was thereby reversed.
In conclusion, it seems the verdict is still out on the true clinical benefits of THC/CBD. Many workers find themselves in the situation of wanting to learn more about medical marijuana, but feel embarrassed to raise the issue with their doctor. Other patients are already using medical marijuana, but fear they’ll be chided or chastised by their doctor. Perhaps in time the stigma will disappear altogether, hopefully paving the way to more transparency and openness.
Meanwhile, let us praise the the Appeals Commission for looking beyond the din of the scientific debate, and instead, prioritizing the testimony and context of unique circumstances. In this case, the worker has been able to return to work, contribute to society, lead a semi-normal life.