Tab for vets’ medicinal pot jumps to $4.3M

Medical Marijuana Vets

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.