Legalization of Marijuana in Canada & Long Term Disability Claims
It is now old news that Canada has become the 2nd country in the world to legalize marijuana, as noted in this CNN article. The Canadian government has done this in order to normalize the market for marijuana and to allow the Canadian economy to benefit from this new legal market.
Legalization has created a significant demand for legal services to address the numerous issues for society at large, as noted in a recent article by Jim Middlemiss in Canadian Lawyer magazine.
Canadian Marijuana Legalization
While the feeding frenzy in the business world ramps up, society is trying to grapple with how to deal with cannabis use in the workplace. While cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption are legal, the consumption of these products continues to be regulated and restricted in public spaces and workplaces. Policies and new laws to deal with consumption and impairment will likely be required to address an individual’s right to use cannabis versus the impact it has on social interaction and workplace behaviour.
So, how will marijuana legalization be dealt with for those making a disability claim? Medical marijuana has been something that disabled people have been turning to for some time, and where it is prescribed and sanctioned by medical providers, its’ use has generally been accepted by insurers for those dealing with disabling medical conditions, such as chronic pain.
Marijuana & Disability Policies
When it comes to addiction and substance abuse, most disability insurance policies have exclusion clauses to preclude recovery of disability benefits when the disability is a result of an addiction that has gone untreated. Like alcohol and cigarette smoking, legalization of marijuana does not mean that there are no health risks related to its consumption, as noted on the website of the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction.
An example of an exclusionary clause from a disability insurance policy can be found in the B.C. case of Tanious v. Empire Life Insurance Co.,[i]:
No Long Term Disability Benefit is payable for disabilities that result from alcohol, drug or other substance use disorder, unless the Insured Employee is receiving and complying with continuous treatment for such Total Disability from a rehabilitation centre, a provincially designated institution, or is actively involved in and following a program of rehabilitation which is supervised by a Physician and approved by the Company.
Successful In Recovering LTD Benefits
In this case, Ms. Tanious’ claimed disability benefits based on her multiple sclerosis, however, she was also a crystal meth user and Empire Life took the position that it was her crystal meth addiction that was disabling and not her MS. The Court ultimately ruled that the proximate cause of her disability was her MS and her crystal meth usage was impacted by her medical diagnosis (she was using crystal meth to “self-medicate”). She was successful in recovering her LTD benefits and also received a $15,000 award for mental distress. The case provides an interesting review and discussion regarding issues of illicit drug use in the context of an underlying severe and debilitating medical condition. The bottom line is that in appropriate circumstances, a claimant can overcome the substance abuse exclusion.
In general, where the disability claim is based on addiction, whatever the substance, whether legal or not, it is important to appreciate and understand the requirement to be under appropriate care and rehabilitation to address the addiction. I expect the even with the legalization of marijuana, claims with an element of substance abuse will continue to be adjudicated by insurers as they have in the past.
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A note from our long term disability lawyers
Taking a medical leave from work is not an easy decision to make. Concerns about providing for yourself and your family and keeping your job may cause you to want to push through your pain, but this won’t make your problems go away. Stopping work is often the smartest decision for your long term health and well-being, and your disability benefits are there to provide you with financial support until you can return to work.
If you have made the tough decision to stop working and apply for your short term disability or long term disability benefits, you may feel overwhelmed by the process and have questions that your employer and your insurance company are not able or willing to answer. Share is There to see you through and answer your questions.
Our Disability law firm knows what you have been going through
We understand that things have not been easy for you over the last little while. Your health has been suffering, you are unable to work, and now your insurance company, who was supposed to be there in your time of need, has decided they will not pay your disability benefits or respect your disability claim. These benefits exist to provide you with the financial support you need so that you can focus on your health and rebuilding your life. It is unfortunate that your insurance company has not lived up to its promise. If your disability claim has been denied, we will fight to get you the benefits you are entitled to. Our disability lawyers have helped thousands of Canadians get their long term disability benefits over the past 35 years, and we can help you too.
Our experienced disability lawyers can fight back on your behalf
Share Lawyers believes that every client who is dealing with a disability claim deserves superior personal service. To achieve that goal, we have developed our team of experienced, compassionate, and caring long term disability lawyers, law clerks, and administrative staff to meet all of your needs. Our team of experienced long term disability, life insurance, employment, and critical illness insurance lawyers have made successful claims against many insurance companies, third-party administrators and employers.
If you are unable to work, your disability benefits should be there to provide you with the financial support you need. While your insurance company may be focused on finding ways to avoid paying your claim, our focus is on what is in your best interest. When Share Lawyers gets involved, you have an entire team of lawyers that are there to support you and to fight for what is yours.
Our disability claim lawyers fight for your disability insurance claim by relying on our many years of experience to apply the best strategic planning and approach in each case, using the latest technology available. Experience matters, and with Share Lawyers, you are in the best hands with 35 years of success on your side.
In this video, we explain the role of a long term disability lawyer and how we can support you when you have been denied your long term disability benefits.
2016 BCSC 110, 2016 CarswellBC 160 @ paragraph 18
2016 BCSC 110, 2016 CarswellBC 160, 2016 C.E.B. & P.G.R. 8164