Manulife joining Shoppers Drug Mart in medical marijuana program

By Ian Bickis

THE CANADIAN PRESS

Manulife Financial Corp. has partnered with Shoppers Drug Mart to offer enhanced medical marijuana insurance coverage.

The insurance company said Tuesday that clients who have been approved for medical marijuana coverage will be able to consult with Shoppers pharmacists at an Ontario-based patient care centre about different strains of medical marijuana and the different ways to take it.

Manulife customers will then be able to choose treatment that is covered under their Manulife plan and receive ongoing case management.

The program is the first to offer support for clients throughout the process, said Nathalie Khalaf, director of pharmacy benefits at Manulife.

“It’s the only one in the industry or in the market to offer member referrals to a health-care professional.”

The program provides more support for plan members taking medical cannabis, but also has a more structured and controlled system that provides support to companies looking to add medical cannabis to their benefits package, said Khalaf.

“Some of them wanted a little bit more comforts before adding it to their benefits plan. So they wanted to make sure that, first of all that there are enough controls in place.”

The initiative could increase interest in the medical cannabis coverage Manulife already offers on a selective basis, but which has seen very little uptake so far, said Khalaf.

The program will be available as an option for participating group and individual health insurance plans starting in the fall. Manulife said more details of the program will be available once the program takes effect.

James O’Hara, CEO of Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana, said the program should remove some of the confusion in navigating the system for people who need medical marijuana.

“The added ease of fulfillment from a patient’s side removes a lot of the anxiety and the mystery and the subsequent stress of where do I go from here.”

The partnering of two major companies on such an initiative also contributes to combating the ongoing stigma that medical cannabis patients face on a daily basis, said O’Hara.

It overall contributes to the normalization of cannabis as an accepted and recognized medicine today, which is the way it should be.”

Manulife’s program is part of an evolving landscape of medical marijuana insurance coverage in Canada.

Sun Life Financial Inc. said in February that it was adding medical marijuana coverage as an option for its group benefits plans. Great-West Life Assurance Co. has said it plans to expand its medical marijuana coverage options in its group plans this year.

However, coverage has generally been limited to specific approved conditions. Sun Life limits coverage to conditions and symptoms associated with cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, HIV-AIDS, and palliative care.

In April, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal also overturned a ruling by the province’s Human Rights Tribunal that had found an elevator mechanic was discriminated against because his employer didn’t cover his prescription for medical marijuana.

Jones Brown, Canadian Insurance Broker, Welcomes Legalization of Cannabis

 As one of the first Canadian brokers to facilitate insurance solutions for cannabis business in CanadaJones Brown welcomes Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act, allowing cannabis to be legally bought, sold and used by adults in Canada.

“This historic legislation is transformational for the cannabis industry and we are pleased to see Senate approval”, says Rod Campbell, CEO. “Our clients remain our first priority and we are committed to ensuring their risk exposures are met with the appropriate insurance coverage and prudent risk management advice. We look forward to what the marketplace has in store.”

In 2010, Jones Brown recognized an unfulfilled need for insurance and risk management in the cannabis industry and have been diligent advocates for better insurance coverage for cannabis clients. Having the appropriate insurance coverage is important as it protects operators, investors and, consumers.  Jones Brown has been at the forefront in providing insurance for product liability, management liability, physical assets, inventory loss including crop contamination, business interruption and revenue protection, and cyber liability. We have been committed to innovating product to address the evolving and emerging risks.

“We are proud to stand with our clients in the cannabis industry in welcoming this milestone. Our expertise and long standing relationships with underwriters are especially favourable as we look forward to the arrival of the recreational market” comments Leslie Ducommun, joined by David Kerr, from the Cannabis practice team.

As the cannabis industry evolves at record pace, Jones Brown is committed to continuing to provide innovative, and tailored insurance solutions across the country.

About Jones Brown Inc.

Jones Brown is a privately held Canadian insurance brokerage and strategic consultancy with offices in VancouverCalgaryHamilton, and Toronto. Founded in 1997, Jones Brown is distinguished by its peerless client service, its best in class team of experts, and its singular commitment to providing innovative, tailored solutions for complex problems. Jones Brown works with a diverse range of individuals and global corporations, offering clients a uniquely Canadian perspective, rooted in a sense of independence, a long-term view, and an unwavering commitment to excellence. For more information, visit https://jonesbrown.com.

SOURCE Jones Brown Inc.

Markers Insurance Introduces Canada’s First Guaranteed-Issue Insurance Product Covering Medical Cannabis

Markers Financial Inc. (“Markers Insurance” or the “Company”), a division of Evergreen Pacific Insurance Corporation (“EPIC”), announces it is introducing Canada’s first guaranteed issue insurance product for individuals providing coverage for medical cannabis prescriptions. The Company plans to launch its individual product, followed by a group product for companies wishing to provide such benefits to their employee group, by August 15, 2018.

Robert Wilson, Chief Executive Officer of EPIC, commented, “our introduction of insurance coverage for medical cannabis will go a long away toward supporting a more legitimate, patient-centric approach to patient care in Canada. We anticipate a very positive market reception in August.”

Similar to the way in which dental insurance is administrated in Canada, medical cannabis producers licensed by Health Canada will be paid directly by the insurer, such that patients will never be out of pocket for the cost of their prescriptions. Policies will be customized to each insured’s actual requirements, with no caps or restrictions based on pre-existing conditions. All medical cannabis producers licensed by Health Canada are eligible to participate in this program. In late May, the Company began the process of enrolling licensed producers as both medical cannabis suppliers and channel sales partners across Canada, and this process is ongoing.

About Markers Insurance

Markers is a Canadian insurance agency and is headquartered at 400-1500 Don Mills Road, Toronto, Canada. The products marketed and sold by the Company will be underwritten by the Canadian insurance industry. See www.markersinsurance.com.

About EPIC

Evergreen Pacific Insurance Corporation Ltd. is a financial-services holding company. EPIC owns, operates, and invests in businesses involved in designing, developing and distributing highly innovative insurance products and risk management solutions. See www.evergreenpacific.ca

The information contained in this news release is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute an offer to issue or arrange to issue, or the solicitation of an offer to issue, securities of Evergreen Pacific Insurance Company Ltd. (EPIC) or other related entities. The information contained herein is not investment or financial product advice and is not intended to be used as the basis for making an investment decision. The views, opinions and advice provided in this news release are provided for information purposes only. No representation or warranty, express or implied, is made as to the fairness, accuracy, completeness or correctness of the information, opinions and conclusions contained in this news release. Except for statements of historical fact, this news release may contain certain “forward-looking information” within the meaning of applicable securities laws. Forward-looking statements are based on the opinions and estimates of management at the date the statements are made, and are subject to a variety of risks and uncertainties and other factors that could cause actual events or results to differ materially from those anticipated in the forward-looking statements. This news release does not constitute an offer of shares for sale in the United States or to any person that is, or is acting for the account or benefit of, any U.S. person as defined in Regulation S under the United States Securities Act of 1933 (as amended the “Securities Act”), or in any other jurisdiction in which such an offer would be illegal. Evergreen’s shares have not been and will not be registered under the Securities Act.

SOURCE Evergreen Pacific Insurance Corporation

Legalization Of Recreational Cannabis In Canada: Real Estate Trends

The recreational cannabis industry has always existed. But, if all goes as planned, a new one will be born in Canada this summer, anointed with the blessing of the laws of the land.

Business owners, operators, investors and advisers have long realized the potential implications of what is to come. The global business consultancy, Deloitte, has projected the size of a legal, recreational retail cannabis market in Canada at nearly $9 billion per year, which figure swells to over $20 billion if the ancillary market for cannabis related products and services is included. There has already been a “green rush” by equity investors into medical marijuana companies, which, of course, will become the major players in the new recreational market, with more than $466 million raised in Canadian capital markets in 2016 alone.

Prices for cannabis stocks soared into late 2017, leading to a flurry of “cheap” M&A activity (i.e. stock exchanged for stock with little or no cash involved – see, for example, the recent acquisition by Aurora Cannabis Inc. of MedReleaf Corp.). At the same time, increasing numbers of financiers have got involved too, in many instances offering financial assistance to licensed producers looking to expand and acquire cannabis production and refinement facilities. Even one of the big five Canadian banks (BMO) has finally jumped on board, recently participating in a $175 million “bought deal” securities issue.

With legalization not far off, we are also seeing both the private and public retail channels ramping up their physical locations. While all jurisdictions offer production licences, currently only some will offer retail licenses (e.g. Alberta will allow privately run stores whereas sales in Ontario will occur only through provincial liquor control board outlets). In any case, the retail landscape is set to change dramatically across the country over the next five to 10 years as a result of these new laws.

Residential landlords will also feel the impact of the new legislation as it will now allow tenants to grow a limited amount of marijuana for personal use. This creates obvious safety and potential damage concerns for landlords since, for example, each unit of a multi-unit apartment could now, in theory, contain a small scale grow operation.

As expansion and consolidation in the burgeoning marijuana industry continue and as Canadian companies focus on scaling up operations to meet post-legalization consumer demand, from a bird’s eye legal perspective, we anticipate the following real estate trends to continue:

  1. Increased acquisition and disposition of real estate as a result of increased M&A activity
  2. Increased acquisition of real estate for production, refinement and retail purposes
  3. Increased financing from all levels (including potentially all Schedule 1 banks once risk exposure decreases when legalization occurs) for the above purposes
  4. Increased leasing (and sub-leasing) in the commercial real estate sector, with numerous special considerations and issues to be dealt with in any lease of space to a cannabis-related industry player.
  5. Increased push from residential landlords, with respect to marijuana growth and use restrictions, to i) revise proposed legislation and ii) amend leases.

Of course, most of these new laws were enacted under the guise of protecting youth from the hard criminals who push illegal substances. As with any government initiatives, they are replete with political risk with respect to implementation. Nevertheless, legalization itself seems certain, even if the specific timing does not.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

Canadian Health Insurance Company to Cover Medical Cannabis

Excerpted article was written by Allison Tierney 

A major Canadian health insurance company will soon cover medical cannabis. Sun Life Assurance Co. is set to add medical cannabis to its group benefits plan on March 1. It will be the first major Canadian insurance company to take this step.

“Sun Life’s approach reflects current evidence-based clinical knowledge regarding the medical use of cannabis,” Sun Life said in a release on Thursday.

“As this has become something our clients—being the individual companies known as plan sponsors—have been asking us about more and more, we have moved from the stage of evaluate and review, to now offering it as a benefit for medicinal purposes,” Dave Jones, senior vice-president of group benefits at Sun Life, told the Globe and Mail.

The yearly maximums for those who will be covered through Sun Life for medical cannabis range from $1,500 to $6,000 per person per year. Medical cannabis will be an optional coverage through Sun Life, which insures more than 22,000 companies in Canada. Sun Life currently lists the following conditions and symptoms as being eligible for coverage: cancer, multiple sclerosis (MS), rheumatoid arthritis, HIV/AIDS, and for patients in palliative care. There will be a prior approval process for those seeking coverage.

Justin Loizos, owner-operator of the compassion club Just Compassion in Toronto, has officially been a medical cannabis patient since 2012. Loizos uses cannabis as a medicine because he has MS and post-traumatic stress disorder. He estimates he would spend about $80,000 per year for his medical cannabis if he didn’t have access to wholesale pricing through the compassion club he owns.

“I own and operate a dispensary—the only reason I can afford my medicine is because of this,” Loizos said.

Loizos said going through the current legal system rather than the grey area his dispensary operates in isn’t an option to for him right now because what’s offered would fall short of his needs and wouldn’t keep him out of the hospital.

Loizos said the average grams used for medical cannabis patients would be significantly lower than his needs, however, as he describes himself as an “oddity.” He estimated it would be three to five grams per day for an average medical cannabis patient, whereas he uses around 40 grams per day (though it can vary depending on his medical needs).

Loizos said Sun Life’s coverage would likely cover only about a gram per day.

However, Craig Jones, the executive director of NORML Canada, said that he’s hopeful the cost of cannabis will go down after Canada’s cannabis legalization and regulation are put into action this year. NORML Canada is a non-profit that “aims to eliminate all civil and criminal penalties” for private cannabis use.

“It’s likely that the cost of cannabis will decline and—once people figure out which strains work best for which conditions—they’ll have no problem accessing through government vendors or from friends,” Jones told VICE via email.

Jones said it’s essential that more good-quality research is conducted on cannabis. He said that doctors are slow to pick up on new therapies such as cannabis—in part due to its stigmatization, but also because there needs to be more quality research and the results of such in the public domain.

“NORML Canada has long held that the full potential of cannabis is yet to be discovered—and with legalization and the end of bureaucratic obstacles, we may be on the verge of a whole new research era,” Jones said.

“I expect that insurers will expand availability as we learn more about what cannabis therapies work for which groups and conditions,” Jones told VICE. “We are at early days. Expect the unexpected.”

Sun Life’s coverage will categorize medical cannabis under “medical services and equipment” rather than under a drug benefit since it does not have a drug identification number (DIN). Medical cannabis does not have a DIN since it has yet to be approved by Health Canada under the Food and Drugs Act.

For Loizos, medical cannabis has greatly improved his life. Proper dosage level has meant that he has greatly reduced his number of hospital visits for MS-related issues, including being able to avoid potentially dangerous therapies such as those including large amounts of IV steroids.

A next step forward, Loizos said, is for provinces’ disability support programs (such as Ontario’s ODSP) to cover costs—not just a gram per day, but whatever amount a doctor prescribes—of medicinal cannabis.

“Sun Life taking this first step is gigantic,” Loizos said. “Even if it’s a gram a day or whatever, it’s not a joke, it’s showing that a major staple in our medical community has accepted cannabis as medicine and is allowing coverage. That’s very positive.”

VICE

Licensed marijuana producer Aphria Inc. signs deal to buy Nuuvera Inc.

By Armina Ligaya

THE CANADIAN PRESS

TORONTO _ Licensed marijuana producer Aphria Inc. has struck an $826-million deal to buy Nuuvera Inc. to fuel its international expansion efforts, marking the latest move by a Canadian cannabis company to extend its global reach while U.S. competition is kept at bay.

The cash-and-stock deal to buy the Toronto-based medical cannabis firm builds on a partnership between the companies as it combines Aphria’s production with Nuuvera’s expertise in cannabis processing and extraction.

Nuuvera, which is in the final stages under Health Canada’s process to become a licensed marijuana producer, has business relationships in the Middle East, Africa and Europe, including a license to import medical cannabis to Italy for sales to domestic pharmacies.

“In all, this positions us to grow internationally and realize the potential of these emerging cannabis markets,” Aphria chief executive Vic Neufeld told analysts on a conference call Monday.

Many Canadian licensed marijuana producers have been racing to international markets that have larger populations, and market demand, than at home.

The latest examples include Canopy Growth Corp.’s plans announced in December to establish a 40,000-square-metre production facility in the Danish city of Odense, with the aim of exporting product to other federally legal jurisdictions in the European Union. Meanwhile, Aurora Cannabis Inc. is also retrofitting a greenhouse in Odense and said announced earlier this month it won a tender to supply medical cannabis to the Italian government through the country’s Ministry of Defence.

But the recent change in marijuana policy tone in the U.S., where pot remains illegal at the federal level, has further reinforced Canadian marijuana companies’ advantage on the world stage for now.

In December, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded an Obama-era memo which suggested the federal government would not intervene in states where the drug is legal, opening up the door for several states to legalize pot for medical and recreational purposes. But in a new memo, President Donald Trump’s top law enforcement official said he would let federal prosecutors where cannabis is legal decide how aggressively to enforce federal law.

Analysts say this guidance introduces additional uncertainty and suppresses the rise of large U.S. marijuana companies to challenge Canadian players as they expand globally.

The Aphria-Nuuvera deal is also the latest sign of consolidation, less than a week after Edmonton-based Aurora Cannabis reached a friendly billion-dollar to acquire rival licensed producer CanniMed Therapeutics Inc. for a mix of cash and stock in the biggest acquisition the marijuana sector has seen. As well, earlier this month Aphria announced a deal to buy B.C.-based Broken Coast Cannabis Inc., a transaction valued at $230 million.

Analysts expect consolidation to accelerate in the sector ahead of the legalization for recreational use of marijuana this summer.

Under the terms of the deal, Nuuvera shareholders will receive $1 in cash plus 0.3546 of an Aphria share for each share they hold. Based on Aphria’s 10-day volume weighted average price of $21.15, the offer is worth $8.50 per share.

The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions including approval by Nuuvera shareholders. Nuuvera shares closed at $7 on Friday, while Aphria shares finished last week at $20.16.

Assuming Aphria closes its acquisition of Broken Coast, that it also agreed to buy using stock and cash, Nuuvera shareholders will own approximately 14.8 per cent of the combined company.

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