Canadians who have been prescribed medical marijuana could one day see their insurance company footing the bill, experts predict, following the introduction of new Health Canada rules that allow for the sale of cannabis oils.
Health Canada announced revamped medical marijuana regulations earlier this month after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that users of the drug should be permitted to consume it in other forms, such as oils and edibles, rather than having to smoke dried buds.
“You’re going to see insurance companies slowly start to creep into the sector,” says Khurram Malik, an analyst at Jacob Securities Inc., noting that the new regulations will allow medical marijuana producers to sell gel caps similar to those made from cod liver oil.
That will allow for more precise dosing, Malik says.
“When you’re trying to smoke a plant you have no idea how much you’re consuming, so that makes doctors a little nervous,” he said.
Experts say the changes are a major step towards legitimizing the drug in the eyes of doctors and insurers.
“When something doesn’t look different than other medicines, it becomes much easier for people to get comfortable with the idea that this is, in fact, a possible treatment option for patients,” says Bruce Linton, the chief executive of Smiths Falls, Ont.-based Tweed Marijuana Inc. (CVE:TWD).
However, medical marijuana producers still have one major hurdle to overcome before insurers begin routinely funding the drug – cannabis currently doesn’t have a drug identification number, known as a DIN.
“If it was issued a DIN by Health Canada, it’s quite likely that the insurance companies would cover it,” says Wendy Hope, a spokeswoman for the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association Inc.