“More clinical evidence supporting the use of medical marijuana as a treatment for some conditions has emerged,” said spokesperson Tammy Smitham in an email to Global News.
“We regularly review our benefit plans to ensure they continue to meet the needs of our employees while also adapting to changes in the area of drug therapies.”
Employees will be covered to a maximum of $1,500 annually, however only for specific medical conditions that must be authorized by the insurer: spasticity and neuropathic pain associated with multiple sclerosis, and nausea and vomiting in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.
WATCH: Shoppers Drug Mart applies to Health Canada for a licence to distribute medical marijuana
That one of the country’s largest employers is now offering partial coverage is “encouraging,” said Deepak Anand, executive director of the Canadian National Medical Marijuana Association.
“One of Canada’s largest employers covering it is definitely significant in itself.”
The retailer’s move follows another recent win for the medical marijuana industry: Last fall a human rights board ruling in Nova Scotia determined that a man’s insurer must cover his medical marijuana.
“We’ve been sort of inundated with calls around the same subject, where people have been turned down in the past but are now looking at these decisions, looking at how they can get coverage,” Anand said.
Shoppers Drug Mart has applied to sell medical marijuana; Anand acknowledges there is a “coinciding of interests” for the massive pharmacy and retail chain.
“The benefits are now being realized … The efficacy of cannabis is not something that can be denied any longer.”
WATCH: Health Canada decision relaxes some rules for medical marijuana users
As Canada moves toward marijuana legalization and the public becomes more acclimatized to pot as medication, Shoppers Drug Mart appears eager to fill any distribution void.
“With respect to medical marijuana we believe that pharmacists, as medication experts, can play a significant role in the dispensing and monitoring of medication to ensure safe and optimal use,” said Smitham.
“While at this point pharmacies are still unable to dispense, we continue to work toward an active role for pharmacy.”