An estimated one in seven Canadians report using cannabis products to recuperate from work-related physical injuries, according to data published in the journal BMJ Open.
Researchers affiliated with the University of Toronto surveyed nearly 1,200 Canadians who had received workers’ compensation for either a work-related injury or illness. Fourteen percent of respondents said that they had used cannabis explicitly to recuperate from a workplace injury. (Cannabis is legal for both medical use and adult use in Canada.)
Those electing to use cannabis typically reported experiencing greater levels of pain and sleep disruptions as compared to non-users. Most respondents had not discussed their cannabis use with their physician. (Studies from the United States and Canada find that most health care professionals believe that they are inadequately prepared to discuss medical cannabis-related matters with their patients.)
Authors concluded: “Our study provides novel information on workers’ use of cannabis for their work-related conditions, a population for which little data exist. … Findings of this study demonstrate workers are turning to cannabis many months following the onset of their original work-related condition. … Although these workers report a beneficial impact of cannabis on their health, they are often using cannabis without medical guidance. It is important that healthcare providers caring for injured workers engage in conversations about the potential benefits and risks associated with the therapeutic use of cannabis.”
In the United States, courts have issued contradictory opinions regarding whether medical cannabis-related costs are eligible for reimbursement under workers’ compensation laws. Six states — Connecticut, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, and Pennsylvania — currently allow for reimbursements. By contrast, seven states (Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Florida, North Dakota, Ohio, and Washington) expressly prohibit workers’ compensation insurance from reimbursing medical marijuana-related costs. Other states are silent on the issue.
NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano recently weighed in on the issue in an op-ed, opining: “Most patients, most physicians, and most state laws view cannabis as a legitimate therapeutic option. Therefore, the millions of Americans who rely upon medical cannabis products ought to be afforded the same entitlements as those who use other conventional medications and therapies. Those privileges should include insurance-provided reimbursement for medical cannabis treatment.”
The full text of the study, “Cannabis use among workers with work-related injuries and illnesses: results from a cross-sectional study of workers’ compensation claimants in Ontario, Canada,” appears in BMJ Open. Armentano’s op-ed, “More States Should Require Insurers to Pay for Medical Cannabis,” appears in the Pain New Network.