Credit: Photo Submitted

UBCO students to get medical cannabis coverage

Kelowna - The pilot project will be implemented in April

UBC Okanagan is getting a benefits plan that will cover the cost of medical cannabis for students.

With the introduction of the new program in 2018, UBCO becomes the second university in Canada to offer a research-backed approach for covering the costs of medical cannabis, according to Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana (CFAMM).

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 decision came after a graduate student proposed the idea to the student union, said UBCSUO president Trophy Ewila.

The project will be tailored to UBCO and should be available by mid-April, he said.

“I thought it was a great platform (to support), especially because of very chronic and severe illness that may affect the students. I thought that this was something worth backing up and also to support innovation from students.”

Ewila said there is a need for medical cannabis coverage and used a recent awareness campaign for chronic fatigue at the university as an example of students that have a specific need.

“Those are people we are targeting for help, those who can’t find help from other insurance companies or the normal type of insurance companies.”

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, said CFAMM. The proposed research framework will be designed and led by Dr. Zach Walsh, associate professor of psychology at UBCO, who has extensive experience evaluating patient access to medical cannabis.

“Our goal is to try to examine changes in the use of other medications covered by the health plan and see if we see reductions in the use of other prescription medications,” said Walsh. “When we assess the impact of cannabis… if we don’t look at the impact on the use of other drugs we’re really not getting the full picture.”

“If it’s something that’s going to save insurers money, then I think we’ll see a pretty quick uptake on it,” he said.

Most people who engage in illicit opioid use started from prescription drugs and Walsh said although there are risks with using cannabis, “it’s certainly less problematic than opioid dependents in most ways, but if people use cannabis for a long time they can develop a dependence. It impairs attention memory,” adding outcomes of studies vary on students’ academic performance being affected by the drug.

The details of the project 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, said CFAMM.

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 percent co-pay for participating students will be implemented to ensure the program is not misused, said CFAMM.

Two national non-profit organizations, CFAMM and the Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy (CSSDP), have endorsed the UBC Students’ Union Okanagan (UBCSUO) motion to implement a novel pilot project to ensure the costs of medical cannabis through students’ health benefits plan.

This 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.

To report a typo, email:


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Okanagan Falls winery showing international photo project

Liquidity Wines will be sole Canadian show of National Geographic’s Photo Ark

Penticton paramedics busy with overdoses in early 2018

Last week alone saw eight overdose/poisoning calls, nearly matching the entirety of January 2017

Vancouver artist rocks to fight opioid crisis

Jeremy Allingham is set to bring his guitar-focused rock ‘n roll to Kelowna April 6, Vernon June 9

Downtown water main work moving to the night shift

The water main project in downtown Pencticton is expected to be noisy and dusty

B.C. Interior RV Show looking for volunteers

The annual show in Penticton needs volunteer support

New emergency operations centre for Penticton fire

Fire officials say it will take some pressure off the backs of the regional district in emergencies

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

B.C. Scientists witness first-ever documented killer whale infanticide

“It’s horrifying and fascinating at the same time.”

Lawyer for one suspect in beating of man with autism says he’s not guilty

Ronjot Singh Dhami will turn himself in, lawyer said

Liberals awarded $100,000 contract to man at centre of Facebook data controversy

Christopher Wylie says his voter-profiling company collected private information from 50 million Facebook users

Kelowna celebrates World Down Syndrome Day

More than 50 people gathered in Kelowna to bring awareness to diversity and difference

Facebook’s Zuckerberg admits mistakes in privacy scandal

Zuckerberg admits to privacy scandal involving a Trump-connected data-mining firm, but no apology

UPDATE: Former B.C. city councillor sentenced nine months for sexual assault

Dave Murray, convicted this past fall, hired a private investigator to intrude on the victim’s life.

Most Read