Two Canadian corporate giants have announced that they will begin providing medical cannabis benefits to their employees effective immediately.
When Loblaw Companies Limited merged with Shoppers Drug Mart in 2014, the two companies owned and operated 2,738 grocery stores and 1,824 pharmacies between them across Canada. Now, approximately 45,000 employees working at these two companies will be eligible for medical cannabis benefits according to an internal company memo.
An internal staff memo circulated to employees indicated that effective immediately the companies will begin covering the cost of medical cannabis up to $1,500 per year. However, permitted claims will be limited to prescriptions “to treat spasticity and neuropathic pain associated with multiple sclerosis and nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy for cancer patients” according to the memo.
Loblaw / Shoppers has indicated that it is willing to review evidence as it becomes available for other medical conditions that may be treated by cannabis with a view to possibly expanding the scope of permitted prescriptions in the future.
We view this as a potential precedent setting corporate decision. The willingness of these two Canadian retail giants to provide medical cannabis benefits may reduce any perceived stigma and open the door for other companies to quickly follow suit. Granted, in light of the fact that Shoppers has applied for a license from Health Canada to sell cannabis one could have foreseen a decision like this coming.
Certainly this will be viewed as good news by the licensed producers as decisions such as these will without doubt lead to an increase in the number of registered medical cannabis patients across the country which is already growing at an astonishing rate.