Marijuana is now legal in Canada and its benefits in pain management are now being recognized. Medical doctors are prescribing it to their patients to treat chronic pain and in an attempt to avoid prescribing opioids. It is well publicized that opioid addiction and misuse is a serious public health problem in Canada.
As it has become increasingly common for chronic pain patients to be treated with medical marijuana, ICBC has been dealing with claims made by injured claimants for the cost of medical marijuana.
The claim for the cost of medical marijuana was recently considered in Carrillo v. Deschutter 2018 BCSC 2134.
In this case, the claimant was injured in a motor vehicle accident when he was rear-ended. As a result, he suffered from persistent and significant chronic pain. Due to pain, he had difficulty standing, sitting and walking for any extended duration. His limitations resulted in difficulties with activities of daily living and personal care. He required daily prescription medication to manage the pain. The medical experts were of the opinion that his chronic pain was expected to continue indefinitely.
The injured claimant’s claim for future care costs included the cost of medical marijuana which was recommended by Dr. Hershler, a specialist in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Dr. Hershler recommended that the injured claimant be put on a medical cannabis program to be supervised by a medical practitioner and purchased through Health Canada dispensaries. He emphasized in his testimony that the strain of cannabis he recommended was high in CBD (a non-psychoactive cannabinoid) and low in THD (a psychoactive cannabinoid). He suggested that the medical marijuana be taken in various forms such as a tropical cream, an oil to be taken with a liquid drink and/or an oral capsule. One of the objectives of the medical marijuana was to assist with pain management and to gradually wean the injured claimant off current pain prescription medication.
ICBC strongly opposed any award being made for the cost of medical marijuana. One of ICBC’s arguments was that the injured claimant’s chronic pain appeared to be controlled by conventional prescription medication and that the injured claimant had purchased medical marijuana products at various dispensaries without authorization.
The trial judge concluded that the medical cannabis program recommended was medical justified and an award was made in the amount of $35,000.00 for the costs of the medical marijuana as part of the injured claimant’s future pain management plan.