The Canadian government will increase this year the money allocated to therapeutic cannabis for its war veterans. The Ministry of Veterans Affairs estimates that the cost of reimbursements for medical marijuana will be around 200 million Canadian dollars (about 154 million US dollars) in 2022. This is an increase of 30% compared to 2021 and 135% compared to 2019. Since 2008, the North American country has paid for the herb under medical prescription for these former members of its Armed Forces.
Canada legalized recreational cannabis in October 2018 (the second country to make such a regulatory change after Uruguay). The liberal government of Justin Trudeau justified the measure under the argument of fighting organized crime and ensuring the safety of consumers. However, marijuana for medicinal use has been authorized since 2001. The Ministry of Health made the decision based on studies that showed its benefits for different ailments, such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain.
After disputes in court, the Ministry of Former Combatants authorized in 2008 the reimbursement to some war veterans, although they were cases analyzed individually. In 2011, the authorities simplified the procedures. That year, 37 people were reimbursed for a total amount of 103,400 Canadian dollars. In November 2016, the ministry carried out the most recent modification to its compensatory payment regulations: “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 daily. The maximum rate in effect for refunds is $8.50 per gram.
An area of treatment in evolution
The Ministry of Former Combatants has stated that medical cannabis is “an area of treatment in evolution”, so it will continue to review the information and consult with the different actors to, failing that, “adjust the policy as necessary to guarantee the welfare of veterans and their families. A Canadian Senate commission called for such monitoring in 2019, emphasizing the positive results of cannabis for therapeutic purposes. For example, as an effective substitute for opioids against chronic pain, substances are known for their high degree of dependence. Senators also said that the maximum price needs to be constantly evaluated, as it may be above what some veterans can afford.
According to the latest data compiled, some 18,000 ex-combatants obtained refunds in 2021; for federal spending, it meant 153 million Canadian dollars (about 118 million from the neighboring country). Different experts point out that the Ottawa program for medical cannabis for veterans is a wise measure, although they recommend that its consumption be accompanied by psychosocial support, especially in cases of anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.