As another Remembrance Day passes, we continue to give heartfelt thanks to those who served our country. Natural Health Services wants to ensure that veterans know some of the ins and outs around access to safe, medicinal cannabis treatment.

There are as many different approaches to treatment with cannabis, as there are people who use it. And as the myths fall away, people are (re)discovering that  treatment with cannabis can be a healthful, mindful, tasteful approach to regaining and/or maintaining health. Patients are not driven to sloth and gluttony, as prohibition mindsets would have you believe. The opposite is entirely possible with a little education and a journal to note progress, beginning with a less is more approach.

Many of our patients suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), insomnia, mood disorders, chronic pain and inflammation-based diseases have found relief with a mindful, micro-dosing approach to cannabis. Some of these patients are veterans who are eligible to have their cannabis covered.

Who qualifies? If you are a veteran who is no longer an active service member (but have an authorized K number) Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) will reimburse the cost of cannabis obtained through a doctor’s approval to a maximum of three grams per day, to a maximum of $8.50/ gram as a general rule. There are exceptions to this rule, and some licensed producers will cover over and above the $8.50/gram.

It is possible to receive doctors approval for more than three grams a day. This must be approved on a case-by-case basis and with a medical specialist’s and VAC approval. The medical specialist must have expertise in the condition for which you are using cannabis to treat (example: psychiatrist or oncologist or pain management specialist depending on your situation). In end-of-life situations, documentation is not required from a medical specialist.

To make up those three grams, dried flower can be purchased – or the equivalent in oil, caps, and sublinguals. Talk to your NHS Educator regarding choosing appropriate LP(s) and what that LP may stock. If you prefer edibles or concentrates, you may be able to purchase those in late 2019. But for now, consider making them yourself with your legally obtained product from your licensed producer.

There are many Licensed Producers who have mandates around helping veterans get the medication they need, as stress-free as possible. They may coordinate with VAC, submitting documents and arranging for direct billing, they may pay for the difference in price if the per gram amount is higher than $8.50/gr on dried flower, or they may offer a discounted percentage on cannabis oil. A few may also cover your first month allotment until all paperwork is submitted and approved.

Talk to your NHS Patient Educator and let them know you have a K number and are no longer on active duty and they will help direct you to the Licensed Producers that will suit your needs. For instance: Licensed Producers Beacon and Hydropothecary will cover any dollar amount in excess of VAC approved $8.50/gr on flower, and they offer free shipping. Licensed Producers Emblem, CanniMed, Cannafarms and Canntrust will cover over VAC max of $8.50/gr, and provide free or nominal shipping over $100, MedReleaf, Aphria and Solace will cover first month interim registration period while you are waiting for There are exceptions to this rule, and some licensed producers will cover over and above the $8.50/gram. Your NHS Educator can also check which LPs are absorbing the excise tax, who has the most consistent stock, who ships Canada Post vs Purolator, etc. Your Educator will also help you split your allotment between Licensed Producers, if necessary, to help ensure the best-case scenario in terms of supply and selection for your ingestion method(s) of choice.

Also of note is that, with the exception of Quebec and Manitoba, you are now able to grow 4 plants at home under C-45 (the newly legislated Cannabis Act). However, grow at home plants and materials will not be reimbursed by VAC.

Once you have been approved for medical cannabis, you may want to consider dried flower as one of your ingestion methods. Dried flower, or bud, will provide the quickest onset and the most selection of whole-plant strains. The healthiest way to heat and inhale the bud is with a dried herb vaporizer, which avoids carcinogens from combustion/smoking. If approved, Blue Cross Medavie may cover up to $300 of the cost of your vaporizer. Be sure to consult with your caseworker and physician to get the proper documentation to submit to Blue Cross. There are companies like TVape or vaporizer.ca that can contact Blue Cross on your behalf for reimbursement of a vaporizer purchased online from them. If you are covered, the company will receive a cheque from Blue Cross on your behalf and your vaporizer of choice will be shipped.

There is a lot to know but the team at Natural Health Services can help. If you are calling to make an appointment with NHS, please identify yourself as a veteran so we can note your file and make sure you are accessing all applicable benefits.

We thank you for serving, and, in return, we would like to do the same for you.

 

— Kait Shane, Community Outreach Educator Natural Health Services. Follow Natural Health Services on Twitter @NatHealthserve.

For further insight into all things cannabis, don’t forget to check out The Cannabis Show (new episodes every Wednesday) and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The Cannabis Show is also available as an audio podcast, subscribe on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, TuneIn, and Overcast.

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