Cannabis is an herbal plant that can be consumed in various ways. Typically, users smoke it like a cigarette (a joint) or from different types of pipes. Some people also mix it into food or drinks, called edibles. Veterans Affairs Canada’s current policy authorizes and reimburses up to three grams of marijuana daily based on input from stakeholders, medical experts, and research.
Access to Medical Marijuana
Medicinal marijuana is a safe and effective alternative to opiate-based medications. It is also a much cheaper option than other pharmaceuticals. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug. But that is beginning to change. In 2016, the VA changed its cannabis for medical purposes policy to reimburse up to three grams of dried marijuana daily. This decision was made after the Department considered feedback from Veterans, advocates and stakeholders, and existing research. To qualify for this reimbursement, Veterans must have a valid medical document from their doctor stating they require cannabis to manage their symptoms. The Department of Veterans Affairs will also ensure that a Veteran is not purchasing cannabis from illegal sources or unlicensed producers. This allows the Department to control quality and price. It is a world first for the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide this funding. It is a positive step in the right direction.
Mental Health Support
The Canadian government has invested much to expand access to specialized mental health support for veteran cannabis coverage and veterans returning to civilian life. These support programs include group counseling for women affected by military sexual trauma and a clinically facilitated program that helps veterans overcome post-traumatic stress disorder’s natural and understandable effects. In general, media coverage of PTSD and suicide issues related to Canadian Veterans adheres to Mindset guidelines, but there is room for improvement. For example, media coverage of suicide often focuses on the occurrence of a single abnormal event, such as the Lionel Desmond murder-suicide. This near-exclusive focus on a singular event limits media discussion of suicide prevention, helpful resources and modifiable risk factors. The study analyzed data from the 2018 CAFVMHS to estimate the prevalence of the past 12 months of mental healthcare service use among CAF members and Veterans. Using multivariable logistic regression models, it also identified sociodemographic, military, and trauma- and health-related variables associated with MHSU.
Improved Quality of Life
Medicinal cannabis can alleviate several conditions, including anxiety/stress, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), pain, depression, and insomnia. A national survey found that nearly 40% of veterans who use medicinal marijuana report reducing their use of other medications to manage their symptoms. In addition, the study compared veterans who use medicinal cannabis (MC) with those who only use recreational cannabis (RC). While differences between the two groups were not found in terms of PTSD or Major Depressive Disorder diagnoses, MC users endorse more salient motives for cannabis use relative to RC users.
Reduction in Crime
In addition to PTSD, many veterans struggle with sleep and physical problems. They can experience difficulties accessing appropriate treatments due to a lack of funding and stigma. This is particularly important for marginalized individuals at a higher risk of victimization. As a result, these individuals are less likely to report their experiences to the police and may be reluctant to use traditional psychiatric medications or therapy.
Cannabis is being found to be an effective treatment for these individuals. In a recent national study, 35% of participants prescribed anti-depressants reported reducing them with medical marijuana. In addition, several individuals who report PTSD symptoms have also used medical marijuana to alleviate these conditions.