Sun Life Financial says it is adding medical marijuana as an option for its group benefits plans in what is the latest sign of growing public acceptance of cannabis and an industry shift.
The company says the move is being influenced by rising interest from Sun Life’s employer clients.
“Medical marijuana has become a very important part of their treatment program and pain management program,” said Sun Life Chief Executive Dean Connor, referencing patients who have cancer, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, or those requiring palliative care.
Sun Life provides health benefits coverage to more than three million Canadians and their families, or one in six Canadians.
This new offering comes as the country moves to legalize cannabis for recreational use later this year and as the number of registered medical marijuana patients grows. There were more than 235,000 medical marijuana patients in the system across Canada at the end of September 2017, compared to roughly 98,500 a year earlier, noted Vahan Ajamian, a Beacon Securities Ltd. research analyst.
Starting March 1, plan sponsors with Sun Life will have the option to add medical cannabis coverage to extended health-care plans, ranging from $1,500 to $6,000 per covered person per year.
Medical cannabis coverage will be available for specific conditions and symptoms associated with cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, HIV-AIDS, and palliative care.
In order to qualify for coverage, Sun Life plan members must meet specific criteria including an authorization letter from a physician and registration with a medical marijuana producer licensed with Health Canada.
Sun Life will also conduct periodic reviews of the growing body of clinical research supporting the use of medical cannabis for other conditions, and update its criteria if necessary, the company said in a document updating their client base of 22,300 plan sponsors.