The Ontario Public Service Employees Union is now offering its employees $3,000 to spend on medical marijuana per year.
Around 400 employees, their spouses and dependants must get a doctor’s prescription and obtain the cannabis from legally authorized vendors, but they’ll face no limitations when it comes to what medical conditions are eligible for the coverage.
“It’s not up to us to decide what illnesses should be covered,” says Ilana Goodman, administrator of employee relations at OPSEU. “We wanted to treat it like any other medication.”
The union’s management was prompted to introduce the benefit after seeing research around the efficacy of medical marijuana and hearing interest from employees, says Warren Thomas, president of OPSEU.
“I’ve had staff come up to me and say thank you,” Thomas adds, noting that some employees have said they’ve been on the drug for years and have expressed appreciation at having some of their expenses reimbursed by their employer.
Thomas notes it was fairly easy to obtain coverage for the drug because the union runs its own benefits plan.
Employees won’t be able to receive immediate reimbursement for cannabis with a drug card but can submit their claims to the benefits administrator and receive reimbursement after they’ve been processed, he says.
The union is also aiming to get the same coverage for 130,000 OPSEU members who currently don’t receive the benefit. “We intend to try and negotiate it in our collective agreements. I think it’s coming,” says Thomas.