The Canadian government has spent more than $150 million in the last fiscal year reimbursing veterans for medical cannabis costs, the Canadian Press reports. The figure is more than double the amount spent three years ago.
Veterans Affairs Canada said the government is expected to spend about $200 million this year as demand by veterans for medical cannabis is on the rise. The program started in 2008 and, initially, the pool of veterans getting medical cannabis reimbursement was extremely limited and required the approval of medical specialists, the report says. Health Canada relaxed the rules in 2014, expanding the number of conditions and removing limits on how much cannabis could be authorized.
In 2014, Veterans Affairs was reimbursing 112 ex-service members for their medical cannabis, at a cost of $409,000. But the following year, that total increased to more than 600, at a total cost of more than $1.7 million.
In 2021-2022, more than 18,000 ex-military members were reimbursed a total of $153 million, according to Veterans Affairs figures outlined by the Press.
In 2016, the government limited medical cannabis claims to three grams per day – 10 grams with a medical authorization – at $8.50 per gram but that move has not reigned in costs, the report says.
Comparatively, the number of non-military medical cannabis patients in Canada has fallen from 345,000 in October 2018 – around the time cannabis was legalized nationally – to 257,000 in December 2021, according to Health Canada data.
In Canada, medical cannabis is covered by health insurance.