Veterans Affairs Canada says that it plans to retain a cap it has on reimbursements for medical marijuana used by former soldiers to counter the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
“At the present time, there are no plans to change the maximum daily reimbursement limit of the three grams per day, or to amend the criteria for the exceptional approval for reimbursement of the more than three grams per day,” said Sandra Williamson, Senior Director for Healthcare Programs at Veterans Affairs Canada, in a media statement.
The department announced its current medical marijuana policy in November 2016, when it cut the reimbursement limit to three grams of medical marijuana per day from 10 grams per day previously. Those already getting more than three grams a day were given a transition period of six months to move to the lower dosage.
This change came after a report by Canada’s Auditor General that was critical of the 10 gram daily coverage limit, citing the advice of external health professionals. The new three gram limit came into effect in May 2017. It has been criticized by some veterans as not being enough to help them manage their PTSD.
There does appear to be a cost consideration to the current cap on medical marijuana reimbursements. As recently as five years ago, Veterans Affairs spent $409,000 a year on medical marijuana. By 2016-17, that figure had ballooned to $63.7 million. In 2017-18 — after the current cap was implemented — the cost came down to $51 million.
An internal briefing note from Veterans Affairs Canada that was obtained by CBC News through the Access To Information Act showed that government officials were concerned that the medical marijuana costs could reach as high as $88 million a year if a cap was not instituted.
The federal government’s Treasury Board asked Veterans Affairs Canada this past February to report on the impacts of the new reimbursement policy, and officials at Veterans Affairs have said that a review of the current reimbursement cap for medical marijuana could be coming soon. But for now, the current policy stands.