BCCCS Member Wins Medical Marijuana Reimbursement From Workers Comp in Ontario

The BC Compassion Club Society (BCCCS) is celebrating a ruling for one of its members, Gary William Simpson, now living in Ontario, in a victory for the rights of medical cannabis patients. After a five-year journey of appeals, Mr. Simpson has been awarded reimbursement for the cost of his medical marijuana from the Workplace Safety & Insurance Board (WSIB), the Workers Compensation body of Ontario.

 
Simpson sustained an acute back injury while working as a heavy equipment mechanic, leaving him disabled in February 2000. While WSIB covered his prescription pain medications, these proved to have unwanted side effects and addictive qualities. Told by his doctor that his "liver and kidney wouldn't last more than 5 years" using these prescription medications, Simpson gained approval for his medical marijuana license from Health Canada (MMAR) in 2003 with his physician’s support.
 
Using medical cannabis, Mr. Simpson noted a reduced need for pain medication, elimination of ulcer problems, improved sleep, better control of his diabetes, and a renewed ability to walk and do work around the house for up to a half-hour at a time.
 
WSIB, however, refused to cover Simpson’s medical marijuana costs, claiming it did "not recognize this form of medicine."
 
Upon going to appeal, the Workplace Safety & Insurance Appeals Tribunal (WSIAT) concluded that Simpson’s "use of marijuana is recognized as an appropriate health care measure” and that “the most practical and reasonable approach would be to reimburse the worker for the costs which he must pay each month to Health Canada," which were estimated at $805 a month.
 
Just 4 months after receiving his license, however, Simpson was cut off from Health Canada’s cannabis and, instead, given a packet of seeds and told to grow his own supply, which proved unsuccessful and untenable due to his health.
 
WSIB refused to recognize Simpson’s letter of receipt from local dispensary, the Toronto Compassion Centre, detailing his purchases of medical marijuana from 2000-2007. Instead, they informed Simpson that he would be reimbursed only for the cost of a packet of seeds from Health Canada, approximately $20 per year.
 
Finally, in 2010, the Tribunal affirmed its intent to cover Simpson’s medical marijuana regardless of Health Canada being the supplier. "The intention... was to provide the worker with reimbursement of some of the costs related to his use of medical marijuana... That intention can be maintained if the worker is reimbursed an amount equal to what he would have had to pay had he still been receiving his marijuana from Health Canada."
 
Mr. Simpson’s case highlights Health Canada's continued failure to provide an adequate program to serve patients using medical marijuana and the continuing education required for bodies like the WSIB. While the case is in Ontario, the BCCCS is pleased for Mr. Simpson’s hard-won victory, which should give heart to patients across the nation who benefit from medical cannabis.