The Government of Canada will increase funds for medical marijuana for war veterans this year. The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that the cost of reimbursement for medical marijuana in 2022 will be about 200 million Canadian dollars (about $154 million). This is an increase of 30% compared to 2021 and 135% compared to 2019. Since 2008, the North American country has paid for prescription-strength herbs for former members of its armed forces.
Canada legalized recreational marijuana in October 2018 (the second country after Uruguay to make such a regulatory change). The liberal government of Justin Trudeau justified this measure with arguments against organized crime and consumer safety. However, the use of marijuana for medical purposes has been legal since 2001. The Department of Health made the decision based on studies that have shown its benefits for various conditions such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and chronic pain.
Following litigation, the Ministry of Ex-Combatant Affairs authorized the reimbursement of some war veterans in 2008, although these cases were considered on a case-by-case basis. In 2011, the authorities simplified procedures. That year, 37 people received refunds totaling CAD 103,400. In November 2016, the ministry made the most recent change to its compensation rules: “A maximum of three grams of dry marijuana per day, or its equivalent in cannabis oil or fresh marijuana.” Previously, the limit was 10 grams per day. The maximum applicable rate for refunds is $8.50 per gram.
The Ministry of Ex-Combatants Affairs said that medical cannabis is “an area of treatment in the process of evolution” so it will continue to analyze information and consult with various actors to, if unsuccessful, “adjust policies as necessary to ensure well-being.” veterans and members of their families. A Canadian Senate panel called for such monitoring in 2019, highlighting the positive outcomes of cannabis therapeutic use. For example, as an effective substitute for opioids for chronic pain, substances known to be highly addictive. The senators also said that the maximum price should be constantly assessed, as it may be higher than what some veterans can afford.
According to the latest data collected, about 18,000 ex-combatants received reimbursement in 2021; for federal spending, this meant 153 million Canadian dollars (about 118 million from the neighboring country). Various experts note that the Ottawa Medical Cannabis Program for Veterans is a wise move, although they recommend that its use be accompanied by psychosocial support, especially in cases of anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.
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