Article by Scott Johnstone, Lift News
In November of 2016, Veterans Affairs Minister Kent Hehr announced a plan to drastically reduce coverage for cannabis prescribed to veterans for physical and psychological trauma received in the line of duty. The rapid timeline to implement the plan resulted in hundreds of Canadian veterans having their coverage cut by as much as two thirds.
In the wake of these cutbacks, web clinic CannaConnect has created a program to help veterans streamline the rigmarole of restoring full coverage for the amount originally prescribed by their doctors.
While a limit of 3 grams per day has been set as the default cutoff for veteran coverage, Veterans Affairs Canada has allowed for prescriptions in excess of the maximum when the additional (read: original) prescribed dosage is approved by a specialist in the given medical field. To help expedite the process, CannaConnect matches veterans with specialists to set the wheels of bureaucracy in motion.
CannaConnect chief operating officer Shane Urowitz says the program has seen extremely encouraging success. Veterans start with a brief intake interview, and typically move on to see a specialist within two weeks. Once the specialist’s approval has been received the paperwork is submitted to Veterans Affairs. Urowitz says it generally takes anywhere between another two weeks to three months for VAC to review the approval and confirm the full coverage to be restored.
Minister Kehr’s decision to slash cannabis coverage came on the heels of a report that in the period between 2013 and 2016, federal spending on veteran cannabis coverage had skyrocketed from $408,000 per year to over $20 million per year, prompting auditor general Michael Ferguson to flag the program as out of control.
“I was shocked to learn that the former government began reimbursing veterans for cannabis with no policy in place,” Hehr said. “Now is the time to change that.”
But when veteran Lawrence Manzer learned his coverage was being reduced from 10 grams per day to the new 3 gram maximum, he described his reaction as fear, anxiety, distrust, and confusion.
“Many of my comrades were rattled,” said Manzer. “We had found something less expensive than pharmaceuticals and extremely more effective, with less nasty side effects. I was shaken to the core at how the government blatantly left the veterans they were treating out in the cold to fend for themselves again.”