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 If Pot is Prescribed, it Needs to be Funded

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PostSubject: If Pot is Prescribed, it Needs to be Funded   Fri Apr 09, 2010 11:56 am

Headline News
If Pot is Prescribed, it Needs to be Funded
By The Nanaimo Daily News - Friday, April 9 2010



A recent decision by the Nova Scotia Supreme Court must have sent shockwaves through every province in the country.

The Nova Scotia court ordered the provincial government to pick up the tab for the medical marijuana smoked by a chronically ill woman on welfare.

Some provinces do pay for the marijuana prescribed to patients under workers' compensation claims and since 2008 the federal government has also paid for the marijuana consumed by a handful of military veterans receiving disability benefits.

However, before the recent ruling, no province has covered the cost of doctor-prescribed marijuana for people on social assistance.

If provincial governments cover the cost of other prescribed medications, why shouldn't they pay for medicinal marijuana?

Recently, about 200 people attended a seminar about medicinal marijuana at Vancouver Island University.

There they heard from people who use marijuana to relieve the symptoms of various ailments.

Mik Mann, who is afflicted with spinal arthritis, insisted to those in attendance that courts in Canada have ruled that the medical use of marijuana is legal.

The Nova Scotia court ruled that since Parliament has made marijuana legal for medical purposes, and since the drug is "essential" for some peoples' quality of life, its costs should be covered by the province in the same way that prescription drugs are covered for people on income assistance.

Mann is among approximately 4,000 Canadians who are licensed by Health Canada to legally use and posses marijuana. The majority of them suffer chronic illnesses that make it difficult for them to work.

As a result, many can't afford the hundreds of dollars it costs every month to buy the marijuana their doctors say would help them. Since they can't work, their Employment Insurance claims quickly run out and many end up on welfare.

Once on welfare, provincial governments do pay for other prescribed drugs. Some of those drugs, proponents of marijuana argue, do much more harm to people than pot.

People who rely on medicinal marijuana, like many who attended the recent seminar at VIU, say they suffer fewer side-effects from pot than other medications. Some people told the Daily News that medicinal pot allows them to function, perhaps not work, but at least they are able to get out of their beds and go to the lavatory.

Convincing a doctor to prescribe medical marijuana is not easy but once a patient does they should be able to receive the medicine the doctor has prescribed.

Expect to see other provinces join Nova Scotia's appeal of this recent decision. Not because they are opposed to the use of medicinal marijuana but because they fear increasing the amount of money provincial governments will have to pay to cover the cost of its use.

Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter has said what worries him about the decision is not having to pay for medicinal marijuana, but that the court's ruling may result in the cash-strapped province having to pay for a host of other medications, or expensive alternative treatments, not currently covered.

It's a legitimate concern but any prescription drug can end up being sold on the street illegally and nobody says governments shouldn't pay for drugs like percocet.

If it's a medicine and prescribed by a doctor, it should be paid for by those unable to pay for it.

- Article from Canada.com.

Medical marijuana supporters hope N.S. ruling sets precedent

by The Montreal Gazette

HALIFAX Advocates of medical marijuana are hailing a landmark Nova Scotia court ruling, hoping it leads the way to taxpayer-funded pot supplies for low-income patients across Canada.

Last week the Nova Scotia Supreme Court ordered the provincial government to pick up the tab for the medical marijuana smoked by Sally Campbell, a chronically ill woman on welfare.

Some provinces already pay for the marijuana prescribed to patients under workers' compensation claims. Since 2008, the federal government has also paid for the marijuana consumed by a handful of military veterans receiving disability benefits.

But until now, no province has covered the cost of doctor-prescribed marijuana for people on social assistance, according to a cross-Canada survey by the Nova Scotia government.

"This is a new and developing area of law. I'm not aware of any precedent in this area," says Kirk Tousaw, a Vancouver Island lawyer who represents people seeking federal licences for the medical use of marijuana.

Tousaw says the Nova Scotia ruling may not immediately or directly influence the law in other provinces. However, "it does represent a court saying that this particular drug deserves to be financially covered in certain circumstances," he says.

"I think it's a very positive development, and I think the ruling is going to benefit people in other provinces who are seeking to make similar claims."

Even more optimistic is Chad Clelland, the director of community relations for Medicalmarijuana.ca a national coalition of doctors, patients and pot-growers that has spent years helping low-income Canadians find affordable sources of medicinal pot.

"It would be fantastic if this case opened the door in other provinces, if it helped needy patients get affordable access to marijuana," he says. "I would love these people to be taken care of on a large scale."

Roughly 4,000 Canadians are licensed by Health Canada to legally use and posses marijuana. Like Campbell, many are beset by chronic illnesses that make it difficult for them to work. As a result, many can't afford the hundreds of dollars it costs every month to buy the marijuana their doctors say they need.

"If a doctor prescribes OxyContin or an asthma inhaler, or any recognized pharmaceutical, patients on social assistance or disability can often get those products for next to nothing through a private or government insurance program. They would have their prescriptions paid for," says Clelland.

"If marijuana is a prescribed medication, and the patients are eligible through Health Canada, then it should be covered just like any other medication that's available to them."

Less happy about the matter is the Nova Scotia government, which for years fought Halifax resident Campbell's request for an increase in her provincial income assistance, to pay for her monthly pot supply.

Campbell suffers from chronic hepatitis C and fibromyalgia, and has a licence from Health Canada to use marijuana she smokes it or makes tea with it to alleviate her symptoms.

The court ruled that since Parliament has made marijuana legal for medical purposes, and since the drug is "essential" for Campbell's quality of life, its costs should be covered by the province in the same way that prescription drugs are covered for people on income assistance.

Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter has said what worries him about the decision is not having to fork out money for Campbell's marijuana, but that the ruling may result in the cash-strapped province having to pay for a host of other medications, or expensive alternative treatments, that are not currently covered.

Governments have also expressed concern in the past about paying for medical marijuana that might end up being resold illegally and used for criminal purposes.

Campbell's lawyer says she expects Dexter to appeal the ruling, simply because of concerns about the optics of funding marijuana use.

"They're only fighting it," says Donna Franey, "because it's marijuana and it has a stigma around it. There's a real reluctance there."

British Columbia ground zero in the public campaign to legalize marijuana in Canada has no plans to cover the cost of medical marijuana for people on social assistance, a provincial spokesman said Thursday.

- Article from Montreal Gazette.

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