Bioethics Blogs

Limits on Medical Marijuana for Veterans

Chelsea Cox questions the federal government’s recent decision to limit reimbursement for the cost of medical marijuana used by veterans to three grams a day.

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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) affects thousands of Canadians every year and represents a major healthcare challenge in terms of appropriate treatment. At this time, over 3,500 Canadian veterans use medical marijuana for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, chronic pain, and other health issues that stem from line of duty experiences. Funding for this drug is provided by the federal government as it is responsible for the delivery of primary care to eligible veterans.

In November 2016, Veterans Affairs Minister Kent Hehr announced a significant change in federal funding for medical marijuana for Canadian veterans. In future, reimbursement for this drug would be limited to three grams a day, instead of 10 grams a day.  Prior to this announcement, there was no national policy on reimbursement for the drug, and the prescribing of 10 grams a day was based on unclear dosing guidelines for physicians due to a lack of clinical data. So why the change in funding guidelines?

Base of National War Memorial, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada (Photo Credit: D. Gordon E. Robertson)

It has been suggested that Health Canada was strong-armed into allowing the use of medical marijuana by the Supreme Court decision in 2000 (R v Parker), and that it has since tolerated an environment of considerable uncertainty. In the intervening years, anecdotal evidence has accrued suggesting that medical marijuana may become a first choice treatment for Canadian veterans.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.