'Wild West': Audit on veterans' medical cannabis sparks calls for oversight, research

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OTTAWA — An internal audit outlining significant problems with Ottawa's administration of hundreds of millions of dollars in medical marijuana for veterans is being met with shock and concern by mental-health providers and others.

It is also spurring calls for more research into the potential benefits and risks of medical cannabis, as well as oversight of how the drug is administered to protect at-risk veterans and taxpayer dollars.

The Canadian Press reported on the internal audit this week, which found Veterans Affairs Canada has all but lost control as the number of requests for reimbursement for medical marijuana from injured veterans grows at an exponential rate.

Oliver Thorne of the B.C.-based Veterans Transition Network says the audit raises serious concerns about how the program — which cost $150 million last year and is expected to reach $200 million this year — is being run, likening the situation to "the Wild West."

While acknowledging the potential benefits of medical marijuana and some limitations in the audit, Thorne says one of his biggest worries is that former service members appear to be asking for more and more cannabis.

He says that raises questions about the program’s effectiveness and long-term sustainability, and underscores the need for more research and direction on the use of medical marijuana, as well as support for other assistance such as counselling.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 15, 2022.

The Canadian Press