Executive Summary

Prior to the introduction of the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR), the Medical Marihuana Access Regulations (MMARs) extremely limited access to cannabis to a small number of conditions and circumstances and only when authorized by a specialist. Since 2008, Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) has provided coverage for the cost of marijuana for medical purposes (MMP) to Veterans who obtained the product in accordance with Health Canada regulations. Under the MMARs , access was in limited circumstances and the number of Veterans receiving MMP were appropriately low.

On April 1st, 2014, Health Canada released new regulations which eliminated the need to meet certain health criteria before obtaining MMP. The new regulations allow private producers, licensed by Health Canada, to supply MMP to Canadians who have authorization from a physician to access the product. The licensed producers determine the price to charge their recipients. The number of recipients with active authorizations for MMP has been increasing every year. Expenditures for MMP have increased from approximately $416,000 in fiscal year 2013-14 to $20,538,153 in fiscal year 2015-16.

In March 2016, the Minister of Veterans Affairs, the Honourable Kent Hehr, announced a comprehensive review of MMP in response to observations from the Auditor General of Canada.

The scope of the review included background data analysis and information from 2008 until March 31, 2016 and MMP authorization file review population from April 1, 2015 until March 31, 2016. Data and file review populations excluded Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) members.

Objectives of the review included the development of a recipient profile, assessment of VAC's internal governance and compliance, identification of gaps in Veteran health, safety and well-being; and, a review of other benefits, services and programs that the Department is providing to Veterans in receipt of MMP.

Recommendations

It is recommended that the Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic Policy and Commemoration and the Assistant Deputy Minister, Service Delivery develop and implement a policy concerning marijuana for medical purposes. The policy to include:

  1. Lower gram limits for new authorizations;
  2. Review of current authorized amounts for existing beneficiaries; and
  3. Cannabis oil and fresh marijuana.

It is recommended that the Assistant Deputy Minister, Service Delivery determine training gaps and deliver training to VAC staff in relation to marijuana for medical purposes.

Chief Audit Executive's Signature

Sheri Ostridge
Chief Audit Executive

Date: November 15, 2016

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