Canada: Social Assistance to Cover Woman’s Medical Marijuana

Halifax woman overwhelmed after province ordered to pay for her medical marijuana

April 2, 2010 – Sally Campbell no longer has to choose between buying a bag of apples or a few grams of marijuana.

The Halifax woman is on social assistance and the subject of a Nova Scotia Supreme Court ruling that the Community Services Department must now pay for her medical marijuana.

“I’m really glad it’s over,” the 61-year-old woman said of her five-year court battle to get her federally approved marijuana covered as a special need by the department.

“It’s been a long road, but I feel justice has been served. I can’t believe it, I was overwhelmed yesterday,” she said Thursday, the day after learning of the decision.

Campbell said she feels the department called her integrity and credibility into question, as well as that of her doctors, by refusing to acknowledge that her marijuana is medically necessary.

“It’s embarrassing,” she said of the public process.

After reviewing the evidence that the department had, Justice Gerald Moir ruled he could see no other conclusion than that Campbell’s marijuana is “essential” to her health and quality of life and ordered the province to pay for it.

“My gut feeling in reading the decision is that this is prying the lid off Pandora’s box,” said Debbie Stultz-Giffin, chairwoman of Maritimers Unite for Medical Marijuana.

“It’s opening up to most people on assistance who require medical marijuana and have a doctor’s authority, and have Health Canada’s authority, to apply to have their marijuana covered.

“I was extremely delighted (by the decision), knowing how long and how hard Sally fought for this and realizing how many people this is ultimately going to benefit,” she said.

Stultz-Giffin said she is aware of three other people on social assistance who have asked the Community Services Department in the past couple of years to pay for their medical marijuana and have been turned down.

The province has not decided whether to appeal the ruling. Stultz-Giffin believes Nova Scotia will be the first province in Canada to cover the cost of medically approved marijuana for someone on social assistance.

Veterans Affairs Canada pays for the medical marijuana of veterans on disability benefits, providing their medical condition is related to their service.

Spokeswoman Janice Summersby said 13 veterans have their marijuana paid for by the federal government, with the first claim processed in February 2008.

Campbell’s ailments include hepatitis C, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, hypothyroidism, liver disease and disc degeneration. Medications such as interferon and ribavirin gave her debilitating side-effects.

She said she kept her marijuana use hidden from most people for years because of the stigma attached to the drug.

“I just couldn’t stand the social pressure. It’s only when I got really ill that I came out of the closet,” and even then people accused her of using her illnesses as an excuse to get high.

Every year, she applies for an exemption from Health Canada that gives her permission to use two grams of marijuana a day. She pays $8 a gram. Given her limited income, Campbell said there are times she has to choose between eating and marijuana.

“It comes out of my food allowance,” she said of her pot money. “I have to decide whether I want to eat or I want my medication.

“”Fresh fruits and vegetables, that’s what I do without when I have to choose and I really miss it.”

She said it makes little sense to choose food over medicine because she gets nauseated and the hepatitis C makes her extremely lethargic.

“There are times you feel so dreadful, you feel like what’s the point in getting out of bed if you don’t want to cook.”

Campbell smokes her pot, but also cuts up the leaves, pours boiling water over them and steeps the tea on the stove for 90 minutes. She’s just received permission to increase her use to 10 grams a day, so she plans to use the leaves to make butter, cookies and brownies.

Stultz-Giffin takes six grams of marijuana a day for her multiple sclerosis. She’s been on various pain medications, steroids and anti-inflammatories, but most made her very ill, which only worsened her symptoms.

She said she developed a terrible rash over 80 per cent of her body in reaction to one drug and landed in hospital with a severe gastritis attack in reaction to another. It took her a year to recover from each reaction. Today, she takes only the marijuana and is managing well.  By BEVERLEY WARE.  Source.

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