OTTAWA — The military may strictly forbid marijuana use by its soldiers, but the federal government has decided to pay for medical cannabis for some veterans.
Veterans Affairs has reversed a previous ban, now saying it “may provide payment in relation to the associated costs of medically required marijuana to clients who have qualified.”
Payments can be made only to veterans licensed by Health Canada to possess medical marijuana, and who buy government-certified cannabis produced on contract by a firm in Flin Flon, Man.
The policy change was approved last October, but is only now being communicated to veterans who require the product for pain management and other severe medical conditions.
About eight veterans licensed by Health Canada are having their medical marijuana bills picked up by taxpayers, said Janice Summerby, spokeswoman for Veterans Affairs.
She was unable to say immediately how much the new policy was costing the department.
“These guys (the federal government) want to stand up for veterans’ rights,” said Bruce Webb, a Comox, B.C., veteran who successfully pressed Veterans Affairs Minister Greg Thompson for the about-face.
“They want to help.”
Webb, a former air force corporal who received a medical discharge in 2002, said the new payment policy will cover the $490 monthly cannabis bill he faces while struggling on a disability pension.
He could not afford the cost of his daily three-gram marijuana medication, but now is renewing his expired Health Canada licence to take advantage of the payment program.
Webb, 46, said he learned of the change in a letter from Thompson last week, and is trying to get the word out to hundred of veterans he says could benefit.
Veterans Affairs has previously paid the costs of some synthetic forms of cannabis that have been certified as prescription drugs in Canada.
The Health Canada-approved marijuana, currently produced on contract by Prairie Plant Systems Inc., has been criticized as too weak and dry by some users.
But Webb praised the product, saying it makes an “amazing difference” in controlling pain caused by his sports injury from 1999.
Health Canada has been forced by a series of court decisions this decade to set up a program to license medical marijuana users, and to provide government-certified dope to users at a cost.
Patients have also been allowed to grow medical marijuana for themselves, or have someone else grow it for them under licence.
Health Canada, which eventually wants to phase out personal production, recently lost a court case over restrictions preventing licensed growers from serving more than one patient.
Source: CTV Global Media
Author: The Canadian Press