The federal government is cutting the amount of medical marijuana provided to veterans from 10 grams to 3 grams per day.
Veterans Affairs Minister Kent Hehr made the announcement in Vancouver on Tuesday morning. Ottawa has faced ballooning costs in recent years as the number of veterans seeking to obtain medical marijuana to treat their ailments has skyrocketed.
In a his spring report, the federal auditor-general said 10 grams a day is likely too much and the program is not being monitored properly.
“This is double the amount identified as being appropriate in Veterans Affairs Canada’s consultations with external health professionals, and more than three times the amount that Health Canada has reported as being most commonly utilized by individuals for medical purposes,” the report noted.
In 2008, when the government first started covering the cost of medical marijuana, Veterans Affairs had licensed users in only five so-called “forward sortation” areas, defined by the first three characters of a postal code.
By 2012, there were 50 forward sortation areas with cannabis users. Three years later, it was 565.
Meanwhile, government reimbursements for veterans’ pot prescriptions ballooned from fewer than a hundred patients costing $284,000 four years ago, to more than 1,700 former soldiers charging the department $20-million last fiscal year.
This year, the medical marijuana program is expected to carry a price tag of $25 million.