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The Use of Medical Marijuana in Chronic Pain Cases

In the world of personal injury law arising from motor vehicle accident claims, the use of medical marijuana to treat chronic pain is becoming an increasingly debated topic.

More and more often people with chronic pain are being referred by their treating specialists to try medical marijuana as a therapy.  The legal issue for people injured in motor vehicle accidents is whether such treatments will be covered by ICBC, either by way of a direct payment by ICBC as an insurer under no-fault benefits, or by way of a claim against the at fault driver for the cost of the medical marijuana, both past and future.

Medical Marijuana and ICBC Benefits

As the law currently stands, under the Part 7 benefits (no-fault), there is no specific provision for ICBC to pay for medical marijuana treatments.   There is an ambiguous clause which would allow ICBC to pay medical marijuana treatments at its discretion.  However, as a general policy, ICBC is not covering medical marijuana treatment for people in chronic pain.   Therefore, people injured in motor vehicle accidents are generally left to their own devices to pay for this treatment.

That does not mean that the cost of the treatments cannot be sought from the person responsible for causing the chronic pain – i.e., the person responsible for the car accident.   There have been cases where the costs of medical marijuana have been allowed by the court.

The legitimacy of using medical marijuana to treat chronic pain seems to be gaining ground in the medical profession and this acceptance is being recognized in some cases by the courts.   This is particularly so where the medical marijuana is used, not as something one smokes, but rather as a topical ointment, or taken orally.  Also, advances have been made to the extent that the medical marijuana prescribed to treat chronic pain does not have the same “mind numbing” effects as what one typically thinks of when discussing marijuana.

The debate over the use of medical marijuana, and payment for it, will continue in both the medical and legal communities.   It remains to be seen whether medical marijuana becomes a generally accepted pain treatment which ICBC, and defendants in motor vehicle accident claims, will have to routinely pay for.

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