A man who almost lost his arm in a workplace incident says he’d rather take medical marijuana for the pain instead of strong prescription painkillers. He also wants workers’ comp to pay for it. Should a hearing board grant his request?
In October 2009, Danny Auger of Orillia, Ontario, Canada, was working alone on a house renovation when his sleeve got caught in a miter saw. His left arm was almost sawed off, left attached by just 0.2 inches of skin. Auger had to carry his own arm while he went from house to house looking for help.
His arm was reattached, but he lost three inches of it. He has only partial use of the arm with no fine motor skills.
And there’s the pain from nerve damage, which is chronic.
Auger didn’t want to use strong painkillers after having his arm reattached because he got addicted to Oxycontin when he had knee surgery ten years earlier.
But he didn’t have any choice when he was released from the hospital. He was given prescriptions for Oxycontin, Percocet and Ganapehin for pain, which were covered by workers’ comp.
Six months after returning home he stopped using all the prescription painkillers, gradually reducing the dosage.
However, he replaced them with medical marijuana, for which he had a license from the Canadian government that was supported by a doctor.
Auger wants his medical marijuana covered through workers’ comp. So far, the Workplace Safety & Insurance Board (WSIB) has denied his request.
It’s not cheap
Auger’s license is for 20 grams a day, but he only uses 28 grams a week. Why? The cost.
His workers’ comp benefits pay him $882 every two weeks. The 28 grams of marijuana costs up to $300 a week.
In other words, it uses one-third of his income. That’s why he wants the workers’ comp coverage for it.
No word on how this would compare to the cost of prescription painkillers for Auger.
The WSIB has a policy that it won’t reimburse the costs of obtaining medical marijuana.
However, the tribunal that hears appeals from WSIB cases has often ordered the board to pay because patients have received official access. While that would seem to set a precedent, it hasn’t. Each case involving workers’ comp coverage for medical marijuana is heard separately and not based on previous decisions.
A paralegal working with Auger expects him to get a favorable decision from the appeals board.
Do you think medical marijuana should be available as a pain management alternative and covered by workers’ comp? You can give your opinion in the comments box below.