Canadian vets to take federal govt to court for reducing marijuana coverage

Canadian soldiers patrol southwest of Kandahar, Afghanistan, Monday, June 7, 2010. (File image via The Canadian Press)
Canadian soldiers patrol southwest of Kandahar, Afghanistan, Monday, June 7, 2010. (File image via The Canadian Press)

New Brunswick — Unlike their U.S. counterparts, Canadian vets suffering from war-related injuries and PTSD have enjoyed medical marijuana coverage.

However, with rising costs incurred by the federal government, the Veteran’s Affairs Canada (VAC) reduced the amount of medicinal marijuana it would cover, The Globe and Mail reported on Monday.

This has pushed a group of New Brunswick veterans to file a legal case to take the federal government to court in hopes of winning a declaration that Veterans Affairs Canada violated their rights.

These veterans are not seeking financial compensation but want the federal court to issue a ruling that VAC had violated its obligation to vets last May, when it reduced the daily allowance of medical cannabis by 70 percent, from 10 grams to three.

Their lawyer, David Lutz, said the vets want to be compensated for enough cannabis to avoid taking prescription drugs to control their PTSD symptoms and other conditions.

Lutz said:

“We are asking for a declaration by the court that reducing from 10 grams to three grams is a violation of the government’s obligation to the veterans.”

He added: 

“We need to make a new law here.”

One vet killed himself

Following the cuts last May, more than 2,500 veterans across the country still had the authorization to use more than three grams of medicinal marijuana a day.

However, these lower doses were not enough. 

Many former soldiers told The Globe and Mail they tried to take their own lives to avoid relapsing with uncontrollable symptoms.

One vet killed himself after one week following the cuts. Before ending his life, he told his family he could not survive on the reduced dose.

medical, marijuana
(File image)

Lawyer collecting evidence

Canada allows its vets the freedom to take medical marijuana with no string attached as medical marijuana has long been legal on a federal level, but not all Canadians have the full understanding of its benefits.

The Minister of Veterans Affairs Seamus O’Regan himself said that the decision was not about costs.

“We still have a heck of a lot of research to do when it comes to cannabis use and how it affects PTSD and other mental-health conditions,” O’Regan said on Monday in Ottawa, where he announced the creation of a centre of excellence on veterans’ mental health at the Royal, a leading mental-health hospital.

To buttress his stance, Lutz is collecting a cache of anecdotal evidence to address this before he files the case.

So far, his office is interviewing up to 100 veterans.

“The theme here is plants, not pills,” Lutz said.

He said none of his plaintiffs could cope on three grams of cannabis a day without resorting to additional drugs. “And they don’t want to do that,” he added.

“Medical marijuana has replaced every pill that these people were on before. I expect to be able to demonstrate that.”

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