It’s no secret that the Canadian Government’s department Veterans Affairs Canada has struggled over the years with their cannabis policy for veterans.
Changes in Cannabis Policy for Veterans since the introduction
It all began in 2007, when Veterans Affairs Canada made the decision to reimburse a veteran for his medical cannabis expenses. Since then, the department has been reimbursing the cannabis costs of thousands of veterans.
From 2008-2014, Veterans Affairs Canada reimbursed the costs of cannabis for medical purposes to veterans based on Section 4 of the Veterans Health Care Regulations and in accordance with Canada’s Marijuana Medical Access Regulations. The latter of the two outlined limited access for many conditions and other circumstances. The limited access included the authorization for cannabis from a specialist only.
Introduction of Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations
In April of 2014, Health Canada introduced the Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations which removed the limitations related to the authorizations previously mentioned. Although they would still require medical authorization. Not long after these changes were in place, Veterans Affairs Canada began to see an uptake in cannabis for medical purposes reimbursements.
In August of 2016, Health Canada’s Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations was introduced. They set out supply for individuals to produce a limited amount of cannabis for their own medical purposes. The most recent changes to the cannabis policy for veterans came in October of 2018, where the new Cannabis Act and Cannabis Regulations came into effect; otherwise known as the official cannabis legalization.
Funds and Disbursement by Veterans Affairs Canada
Since the 2011-2012 fiscal year, the Cannabis for Medical Purposes program has gone from 37 clients to 13,270 in 2019. The program has reimbursed hundreds of millions of dollars worth of cannabis over the years, with their highest being the 2019-2020 fiscal year costing them $85,151,847.
While there has been continued funding and support for Canadian veterans, Veterans Affairs Canada came under fire in 2018 for budget cuts made to their programs. They used to cover the cost of up to 10 grams of cannabis per day, but after the budget cuts were made that number fell down to just 3.5 grams. The change resulted in a lawsuit from a veterans advocacy group, Veterans for Healing.
Even today the relationship between Veterans Affairs Canada and its benefactors is rocky
There is currently a proposed class-action lawsuit filed against the department accusing them of failing to tell eligible veterans about benefits. Apart from funding, the biggest issue veterans face is the quality of their cannabis products. The quality of cannabis flowers from legal sources simply does not compare to the alternatives available on the grey or black markets.
The program also does not pay for extracts or edibles instead, they expect them to smoke or vape their medicine. Although great progress has been made since the program began, there is still plenty of room for change in cannabis policy for veterans that meet the needs of all members who require support.
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