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Canada: Veterans Affairs to Cover Medical Marijuana Expenses

Canadian military veterans who use marijuana for medicinal reasons under Canada's Medical Marijuana Access Regulations (MMAR) will now have those expenses covered by Veterans Affairs Canada, according to a letter quietly delivered to a Comox, British Columbia, vet. Previously, the agency had refused to pay medical marijuana expenses for veterans, although it covers prescription drug expenses.
Canadian medical marijuana demonstration (
The agency has made no public announcement of the policy shift, but Veterans Affairs Minister Greg Thompson described it in the letter, which was sent to the vet, Bruce Webb. Webb had been obtaining medical marijuana through Health Canada in accordance with the MMAR, but was cut off because he could not afford to pay for it.

"As a disability pensioner, you are only entitled to coverage of prescription drugs listed on Veterans Affairs Canada's formularies," Thompson wrote. "However, the Department may consider covering medications that are not on the list if an exceptional need for the product is demonstrated. It may be of interest to know that the Department made changes to its policy with respect to the provision of medical marijuana, and may now cover the costs of this product for clients who have qualified under the MMAR, administered by Health Canada. In order to qualify for coverage of this non-listed product, a client must be approved by Health Canada, to possess and use marihuana for medical purposes; the product must be obtained from Health Canada in accordance with its requirements; and the client must have obtained pre-authorization from Veterans Affairs Canada."

Webb responded with effusive thanks, saying: "It is a medication, it is a proved medication, it's grown by the government of Canada, for the people of Canada, at taxpayers' expense. All veterans, anyone that needs this stuff should have a right to do it. This man is a compassionate member of parliament. Mr. Thompson, thank you."

The policy shift also won praise from the medical marijuana advocacy group Canadians for Safe Access, which had previously called on Health Canada to deal with the issue of patients who cannot afford their marijuana medications. "For many, this medicine is more effective than the available alternatives, with fewer negative side-effects. It is so important that the cost for this medicine is covered for those in need," said Rielle Capler, the group's director. "Veterans use cannabis for various medical conditions and symptoms including chronic and phantom limb pain, sleep disturbance, brain injuries, Post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression," she added.

While the Veterans Ministry move is to be lauded, Health Canada and the MMAR still have their problems. Only about 3,000 of the estimated 400,000 people who use medical marijuana in Canada are licensed through Health Canada, and only a small fraction of them obtain their marijuana from Health Canada. Patients and advocates have long complained that Health Canada's sole-source monopoly marijuana is of low quality.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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O Canada!

What a great story! I'm very impressed with the bold, enlightened, and above all kind and compassionate stance VAC has taken here. They really went out of their way to help this old fella...sounds like those responsible are a real credit to the organization, and the country!

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