OTTAWA – The cost of providing medical marijuana to the country’s injured soldiers under a Veterans Affairs program jumped to more than $4.3 million this fiscal year, an increase of 10 times what was spent last year.
And the number of ex-soldiers eligible for taxpayer-funded, prescribed pot more than quadrupled to 601 patients.
At the beginning of the last budget year there were 116 eligible veterans.
A briefing note prepared for former veterans minister Julian Fantino says, in 2013-14, the government spent $417,000 on medical marijuana for soldiers.
The massive increases may represent a conundrum for Health Canada, which routinely warns against marijuana use, and the ruling Conservatives who’ve ridiculed Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s campaign for overall legalization of marijuana.
In a statement, Veterans Affairs spokeswoman Janice Summerby stood beside the program, saying the government doesn’t endorse or promote the use of marijuana, but it’s there to support eligible veterans who have a prescription.
The cost to federal taxpayers of providing medical marijuana to injured soldiers increased by 10 times in the current budget year to $4.3 million, according to figures released by the Veterans Affairs department.
By the Numbers
Here is a look at some of the facts and statistics:
- 601: veterans enrolled in 2014-15.
- 116: veterans enrolled in 2013-14.
- 64: veterans enrolled in 2012-13.
- $4.3-million: cost of the program 2014-15 (to March 1, 2015).
- $416,784: cost of the program in 2013-14.
- $353,000: cost of the program in 2012-13.
- $9-$15: current cost per gram of medical marijuana from licensed producers.
- $5: cost per gram under the Health Canada guaranteed system, which was abolished on April 1, 2015.—
- 2008: Veterans Affairs approves new policy allowing it to cover the costs of medical marijuana for eligible veterans approved by Health Canada.
- 2007: Veterans Affairs approves payment of medical marijuana for one client in exceptional case.
Source: Veterans Affairs Canada and public accounts records.