Canada’s Veterans Affairs Minister The Honourable Kent Hehr has proposed restricting veterans access to medical marijuana by cutting funding and the amount available in a prescription. In the proposed changes, veterans will be restricted to 3 grams a day compared to 10 grams as well as a cost per gram restriction, maxing out at $8.50/ gram. Medical marijuana purchased under the relatively new Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR) must be obtained from a Licensed Producer (LP). These LPs charge a maximum of $15/ gram. I personally find these strains to be more efficient, and more therapeutic as they often include the high CBD and high THC strains. [If you aren’t sure about what these components of cannabis mean, check out this pretty decent description of THC vs. CBD.]
So not only is our Minister restricting the amount but also essentially restricting the quality of meds veterans have access to, especially with our current structure of LPs. Please check out my whole post, I have many sources and comments on many different levels of this (currently) Canadian issue.
One of the first questions that I have seen come up in every comments section on every social media post concerning this issue: How can a person require 10 grams of cannabis a day for medicinal purposes only?
Let’s break this down, disregarding for now that the group facing a huge decline in medication access are the men and women who have fought for our country, and given their lives for us. Just for a bit to establish how cannabis as a medicine works. A patient may use cannabis for any combination of its many properties: anti-nausea, anti-anxiety, to decrease muscle spasms or seizures, to increase in sleep quality, for pain relief, to relieve eye pressure, and more. Cannabis is also an ideal transition and maintenance medication for those coming off pain medications like opioids. There are several ways to take cannabis. Medical marijuana can be burned, vapourized, eaten, taken as a sublingual, pills, or even as suppositories. There are side effects to every medication. With smoking there are the most unwanted side effects, with edibles, sublinguals, suppositories, and pills having the least unwanted side effects. (Aside: I say “unwanted” because for me, eating cannabis leaves me drowsy. On rough pain days this drowsiness is a wanted side effect, as sleep is harder on those days.) The least healthy way to consume cannabis is to smoke it, but many patients find this method to be superior for when they need immediate relief. Vapourizing is superior to smoking in that it trades out combustion for vapourization, with fewer harmful byproducts of combustion hitting a patient’s airway and lungs. Smoking and vapourizing take a smaller amount of cannabis to feel an effect, with edbiles, sublinguals, etc. requiring a much higher starting dose. So 10 grams in edibles looks a lot different than 10 grams of dried marijuana flowers does. For a patient with a larger frame and tolerance who requires both THC and CBD, 10 grams a day could be accounted for in a few strong CBD oil capsules, a couple of strong THC edibles, and a couple of joints.
Now to get back to the fact that this issue is directly affecting veterans. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a wicked affliction that is infamous among those who have served for their country. PTSD can consume a person’s life and increases their chances of suicide. [Source.] Veterans are at a higher risk for suicide, with PTSD being a contributing factor. To deal with PTSD, many veterans are put on complex regimes of several different anti-depressants, sleeping pills, and other prescriptions to deal with the side effects from these medications. A life on this many medications is dampening and inconvenient at best, and numbness, despair, and a complete theft of your personality at worst from what I have heard. Some veterans are finding cannabis to give them their quality of life back they felt they were robbed of by their multiple medication regimes. Many veterans consume cannabis for the first time in the pursuit of an appropriate medication to gain their lives back. I think my friend, and CannaConnect coach, Noah said it quite directly- “I do not smoke cannabis for fun. I consume cannabis because of the things, because of the horrifying things I’ve seen overseas.” I can’t even imagine. The protectors of our country really need our support on this one.
The proposed changes state that veterans will be able to access more than the new 3 gram per day limit in exceptional circumstances, requiring paperwork from a specialist such as a pain management doctor or an oncologist. They admit freely “some” veterans need these amounts, but are willing to put them into a state of suffering in the interim? Paperwork takes lots of time, and for many veterans they may not have a specialist willing to advocate for them. So I also have issues with that part. I just wanted to be clear that the new limits are not “hard” on the gram amount, just brittle, time-consuming, and uncomfortable (I imagine).
It’s taken me two days to write this, and I want to include more opinions but don’t seem to have enough spoons! Perhaps a second volume of this will come out soon…I have some articles with information, opinions, and some general links if you are interested in learning more about this topic. Please also notice a link to CONTACT KENT HEHR if you would like to voice your opinion on this matter.
CBC article detailing proposed changes from November 22, 2016.
“The Relationship Between PTSD and Suicide” from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.
“Canadian veterans in combat roles at higher risk for suicide” from The Globe & Mail, November 23, 2016.
“Nova Scotia veterans oppose medical marijuana cuts” from The Chronicle Herald, November 23, 2016.
What do veterans think? “Veterans say medical marijuana helps treat PTSD,” from CBC, November 3, 2016.
“Pot a lifeline for some ailing Canadian war veterans” from The Star, January 4, 2016.
Noah’s CBC interview article , including his comments from above. From November 23, 2016.
Veterans Ottawa Rally, Noah’s campaign to raise funds to rally.
Contact our Veteran Affairs Minister to tell him how you feel!
Another big issue is the lack of proper studies in terms of randomized controlled trials, to investigate the link between PTSD and cannabis. Here is a quote from the abstract of a great piece of science out of the University of Haifa’s Department of Psychology in Israel.
“Preliminary studies in humans also suggest that treatment with cannabinoids may decrease PTSD symptoms including sleep quality, frequency of nightmares, and hyperarousal. However, there are no large-scale, randomized, controlled studies investigating this specifically.” -Mizrachi Zer-Aviv, T., Segev, A., and Akirav, I.
Cannabinoids and post-traumatic stress disorder: clinical and pre-clinical evidence for treatment and prevention, by Mizrachi Zer-Aviv, T., Segev, A., and Akirav, I. From Behavioural Pharmacology October 2016 (Vol.27, Issue 7, p.561-569).