Skinner Appeal Decision Response

Appeal decision in Skinner (medical cannabis coverage case) disappoints community, but the fight is not over.

Decision re-ignites focus on urgent affordability challenges facing patients like Gordon Wayne Skinner.

April 12, 2018 – Halifax, NS – Today, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal released a decision in Canadian Elevator Industry Welfare Trust Fund v. Skinner (“Skinner”) overturning the Nova Scotia Human Rights Tribunal’s original decision that denial of medical cannabis coverage constituted discrimination. The Tribunal had previously ordered the Welfare Fund/Union to cover the costs of medical cannabis under their benefits plan.

Background

Gordon Wayne Skinner was involved in a motor vehicle accident while on the job. He suffers from extreme pain and liver disease, resulting in devastating financial hardship. His doctor recommended medical cannabis and asked his union to cover the costs, just as they had done for his previous medications (including opioids) which didn’t work and had extreme side effects. The union not only denied his request, but they have continued to fight the case and exhaust legal resources instead of caring for the person they are purported to represent.

Gordon and his family aren’t alone in their plight. 60% of Canadians who are prescribed medical cannabis cannot afford the dose their doctor recommends. Families like Mr. Skinner’s are being forced to make unfathomable choices – food and electricity versus medication.

Yet, some unions don’t think it’s necessary to fully consider the ramifications of denying medical cannabis coverage. At the same time, the federal government is moving towards applying a sin tax on medical cannabis. These types of short-sighted policies are hurting sick Canadians.

“CFAMM is actively exploring all options to continue supporting Mr. Skinner’s case” said James O’Hara, President and CEO of CFAMM. “Affordability of medical cannabis is our priority. We will continue to strongly advocate on all fronts – we will not back down.”

“This decision is devastating. My own union is doing everything they can to deny coverage to the only medication that works for me, while myself and my family are left to suffer” said Gordon Wayne Skinner. “I am very thankful for the support of CFAMM and Aurora Cannabis thus far and feel assured that the medical cannabis community is fully behind me as we consider potential remedies.”

The full decision can be found here: http://www.courts.ns.ca/Decisions_Of_Courts/documents/2018nsca31.pdf

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UBC Okanagan Coverage Pilot

Medical Cannabis Insurance Coverage Pilot Announced for UBC Okanagan Students
Non-profit organizations lead advocacy efforts aimed at the responsible inclusion of medical cannabis in student health benefit plans

 Kelowna, British Columbia – February 21, 2018 – Two national non-profit organizations, Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana (CFAMM) and Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy (CSSDP), are pleased to endorse the UBC Students’ Union Okanagan (UBCSUO) motion to implement a novel pilot project to insure the costs of medical cannabis through students’ health benefits plan. This groundbreaking announcement also marks the launch of a new partnership between CFAMM and CSSDP that will seek to implement similar pilots in universities and colleges across Canada. 

Background

With the introduction of the program in 2018, UBC Okanagan becomes the second university in Canada to offer a compassionate, progressive, and research-backed approach for covering the costs of medical cannabis. After two years of discussions with UBCSUO, a motion was put forward and passed in December 2017 to implement a one-year pilot project to cover and study the costs of legally authorized medical cannabis. The pilot project will assess eligibility for coverage based on clinical criteria and there is a proposed plan in the works to back it with a research framework that will study the health and financial outcomes of covering medical cannabis. The proposed research framework will be designed and led by Dr. Zach Walsh, Associate Professor of Psychology at UBC Okanagan, who has extensive experience evaluating patient access to medical cannabis.

The details are still being worked out, however, an application process will be instated, and students enrolled in the legal medical cannabis program (ACMPR) will submit documentation to a third-party who will assess their eligibility for coverage. Severe conditions such as chronic pain and nausea from chemotherapy will take priority, however, depending on program uptake, students with less severe conditions will be offered support. As with other approved medications, a 20% co-pay for participating students will be implemented to ensure the program is not misused.

CFAMM-CSSDP Partnership

CFAMM and CSSDP have been working together for the past two years to support students’ advocacy efforts in this area. The successful adoption of the pilot at UBC Okanagan also marks the launch of a formal partnership for 2018 that will seek to implement pilot projects for universities and colleges across Canada. The partnership will be overseen by CFAMM, which has a special focus on medical cannabis coverage, and led on the ground through CSSDP’s grassroots networks.

“Students who are using medical cannabis to treat their conditions are left covering 100% of the costs while still paying into the student health insurance plan and may be incentivized to use medications that have less desirable side effect profiles, such as opioids and benzodiazepines, because of cost savings,” said Michelle Thiessen, the CSSDP UBC Okanagan Chapter Chair and a graduate student in Dr. Walsh’s Therapeutic, Recreational, and Problematic Substance Use Lab, who spearheaded the efforts.

“UBC Okanagan Student Union’s announcement marks the beginning of a new era, where progressive benefits plans see the positive value in insuring medical cannabis,” said Jonathan Zaid, the Executive Director of CFAMM and among the first Canadians to successfully advocate for medical cannabis insurance coverage. “CFAMM’s partnership with CSSDP will further empower students to advocate for medical cannabis insurance coverage as part of responsible research-based pilot projects.”

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Skinner Appeal Set for October 2nd

HALIFAX, Sept. 28, 2017 – On Monday October 2, 2017 at 10am, The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal is scheduled to hold a hearing in Skinner, a case related to discrimination stemming from denial of medical cannabis benefits coverage where it was found to be medically necessary and effective for Gordon “Wayne” Skinner.

 Media interviews will be available at the courthouse (1815 Upper Water Street, Halifax, NS) following the hearing. The legal counsel for Mr. Skinner, Hugh Scher, along with a representative of Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana (CFAMM), a non-profit organization supporting the case, will be present.

Background
In a January 30, 2017 landmark ruling, the Nova Scotia Human Rights Tribunal concluded that Mr. Skinner’s union, the Board of Trustees of the Canadian Elevator Industry Welfare Trust Fund, committed discrimination by denying benefits coverage for Mr. Skinner’s prescribed medical cannabis. The Welfare Trust Fund appealed the case to the NS Court of Appeal. The case is set to be heard October 2, 2017 by the Court of Appeal.

When conventional prescription medications failed to provide effective relief for his chronic pain, Mr. Skinner’s physician prescribed medical cannabis, which offered superior symptom management compared to previous treatment regimens and was found to be medically necessary and effective for Mr. Skinner. The Human Rights Tribunal ruling found that Mr. Skinner “was discriminated against when he was denied coverage for medical marijuana by the trustees responsible for making decisions under his benefits plan.” The Tribunal found that the treatment was medically necessary and consistent with the mandate of the plan to provide benefits to employees like Mr. Skinner.

Mr. Skinner is supported in his appeal by non-profit organization CFAMM and by Aurora Cannabis Inc., and in the court by The National ME/FM Network, who have been granted intervenor standing and will be making submissions in support of people with chronic pain.

“Medical cannabis has successfully reduced my pain caused by an on-the-job accident. It is prescribed by my doctor and is a safer and more effective treatment than opioids,” said Mr. Skinner. “As the Human Rights Tribunal originally ruled, medical cannabis is medically necessary and effective for my treatment, and should be covered under the plan like other medications.”

Jonathan Zaid, Executive Director of CFAMM, stated, “We hope that The Court of Appeal will carefully consider the fact that medical cannabis is medically necessary and effective for Mr. Skinner and others. Imposition of a blanket prohibition on coverage by employers and insurers adversely effects people with chronic pain who can’t tolerate other treatments. The Tribunal was correct to find that the plan’s actions were discriminatory.”

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NS Human Rights Coverage Case (Skinner) Announcement

Aurora Joins CFAMM in Backing Human Rights Case for Medical Cannabis Insurance Coverage

En français
TORONTO, May 23, 2017 /CNW/ – Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana (CFAMM) today welcomed a commitment of financial and other resources from licensed producer Aurora Cannabis Inc. in support of Gordon “Wayne” Skinner’s defense in a potentially precedent-setting medical cannabis insurance coverage case.

In a January 30, 2017 landmark ruling, the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission concluded that the Board of Trustees of the Canadian Elevator Industry Welfare Trust Fund committed discrimination by denying coverage for the medical cannabis Mr. Skinner uses to manage chronic pain and other conditions resulting from a work-related injury that left him permanently impaired.

Following the Commission’s decision, the Board of Trustees filed an appeal against Mr. Skinner and the Commission in the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal. The appeal has been set for October 2, 2017.

CFAMM, a non-profit patient advocacy organization, has been providing strategic support to Mr. Skinner, and the commitment of resources from Aurora will ensure that Mr. Skinner has the ability to vigorously defend his case, including representation by a leading disability lawyer, Hugh Scher of Scher Law Professional Corporation in Toronto.

When conventional prescription medications failed to provide sufficient relief for his conditions, Mr. Skinner’s physician prescribed medical cannabis, which offered superior symptom management compared to previous treatment regimens. In the Human Rights Commission ruling, Commission Board of Inquiry Chair Benjamin Perryman stated that he found Mr. Skinner “was discriminated against when he was denied coverage for medical marijuana by the trustees responsible for making decisions under his benefits plan.”

“I am very grateful for Aurora’s partnership in supporting Wayne Skinner and CFAMM’s work on behalf of other patients across Canada who are defending their rights and advocating for fair treatment,” said Jonathan Zaid, Founder and Executive Director of CFAMM. “There is now ample evidence that patients have had success managing the symptoms of a wide range of health conditions through the use of medical cannabis prescribed by their doctors. Medical cannabis should be eligible for insurance coverage in the same way as other prescribed medications.”

“This is the right thing to do, and we’re going to back CFAMM and Wayne Skinner all the way,” said Terry Booth, CEO of Aurora. “It is a matter of fundamental fairness and equality that these patients should be able to rely on their benefits plans to support prescribed medical treatment.”

“The lack of coverage for medical cannabis, the only treatment that has worked for me, has caused extreme hardship on my family and has diminished my health,” said Wayne Skinner. “The Trust Fund is charged with representing me and supporting my medical needs, yet they continue to unreasonably prolong this difficult situation. It makes no sense to me that, in managing my chronic pain for example, the Trust Fund would reimburse me for prescription opioid drugs, with their associated side effects and risk of dependence, but they continue to deny me coverage for medical cannabis.”

About Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana

Founded in 2014, Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana (CFAMM) is a federal non-profit, patient-run organization dedicated to protecting and improving the rights of medical cannabis patients. CFAMM’s goal is to enable patients to obtain fair and safe access to medical cannabis with a special focus on affordability, including private and public insurance coverage. For more information, visit www.cfamm.ca.

About Aurora

Aurora’s wholly-owned subsidiary, Aurora Cannabis Enterprises Inc., is a licensed producer of medical cannabis pursuant to Health Canada’s Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations(“ACMPR”). The Company operates a 55,200 square foot, state-of-the-art production facility in Mountain View County, Alberta, and is currently constructing a second 800,000 square foot production facility, known as “Aurora Sky”, at the Edmonton International Airport, and has acquired, and is undertaking completion of, a third 40,000 square foot production facility in Pointe Claire, Quebec, near Montreal. In addition, the company is the cornerstone investor with a 19.9% stake in Cann Group Limited, the first Australian company licensed to conduct research on and cultivate medical cannabis. Aurora’s common shares trade on the TSX-V under the symbol “ACB”.

SOURCE Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana (CFAMM)

For further information:

Jonathan Zaid, Founder and Executive Director, Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana, 416-837-5972, jzaid@cfamm.ca, www.cfamm.ca; Cam Battley, Executive Vice President, Aurora Cannabis Inc., 905-864-5525, cam@auroramj.com, www.auroramj.com

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Nova Scotia: Board Rules in Favour of Insurance Coverage for Medical Marijuana

Nova Scotia: Board Rules in Favour of Insurance Coverage

“This landmark human rights commission decision highlights the discrimination patients face when denied coverage for medical cannabis. Although the decision may not extend to all patients or plans, it has the potential to broaden the feasibility of medical cannabis coverage. Armed with this decision, patients will now have more evidence to help advocate for coverage.”

-Jonathan Zaid (Founder & Executive Director, CFAMM)

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Helping Patients Access their Medication – Aphria Partners with CFAMM on Insurance Support Program

LEAMINGTON, ONTARIO–(Marketwired – April 1, 2016) – Aphria Inc. (“Aphria” or the “Company”) (TSX VENTURE:APH) is partnering with non-profit organization Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana (CFAMM) to provide insurance claim support and educational services to Aphria patients. The partnership agreement is effective immediately.

In Canada, medical cannabis is only covered by insurance plans for certain groups including military veterans and some individuals involved in workplace accidents. CFAMM will guide Aphria patients, who have existing private insurance, in navigating the process of advocating for insurance coverage for their medication and will provide extended one-on-one support for select Aphria patients.

“Medical cannabis is an effective treatment for many Canadians suffering from a variety of conditions but unfortunately, the majority of them are paying out of pocket for their medication,” said Jonathan Zaid, executive director of CFAMM. “We are thrilled to have Aphria join CFAMM’s insurance claim support program and are looking forward to helping their patients advocate for private insurance coverage for medical cannabis.”

“Following cancer treatment, my medications were fully covered through private insurance but all of them had awful side effects,” said Beth Harris, medical cannabis user and Patient Care Supervisor at Aphria Inc. “I now use medical cannabis which is very effective in managing my symptoms including neuropathy, insomnia, bone pain and muscle pain. I am hopeful that insurance providers will consider medical cannabis as an eligible expense.”

According to Health Canada, medical cannabis is used to treat symptoms of several conditions including: cancer; HIV/AIDS; multiple sclerosis; chronic non-cancer pain; insomnia and depressed mood associated with chronic diseases; symptoms encountered in the palliative/end-of-life care setting; and any other condition as authorized by a health care practitioner.i

Existing Aphria patients, with private insurance, interested in obtaining the extended one-on-one support services from CFAMM should visit cfamm.ca/insurance-support. Patients will be required to complete a short survey and eligible applicants will be identified and contacted.

About CFAMM

Founded in 2014, Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana (CFAMM)/Canadiens pour l’accès équitable à la marijuana médicale (CAEMM) is a federal non-profit, patient-run organization dedicated to protecting and improving the rights of medical cannabis patients. CFAMM’s goal is to enable patients to obtain fair and safe access to medical cannabis with a special focus on affordability, including private and public insurance coverage. For more information, visit www.cfamm.ca.

About Aphria 

Aphria Inc., a company continued under the laws of the Province of Ontario and based in Leamington, Ontario, is in the business of producing, supplying and selling medical marijuana pursuant to the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (the “MMPR”). Under the MMPR, Health Canada is responsible for the oversight of commercial medical marijuana growers such as Aphria. Aphria’s common shares are listed on the TSX Venture Exchange under the ticker symbol “APH”. For more information, visit www.aphria.com.

i Health Canada. “Consumer Information – Cannabis (Marihuana, marijuana)” Retrieved from: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/dhp-mps/marihuana/info/cons-eng.php Accessed March 30, 2016.

Neither the TSX Venture Exchange (the “Exchange”) nor its Regulation Services Provider (as that term is defined in the policies of the Exchange) accepts responsibility for the adequacy or accuracy of this release.

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