Musquodoboit veteran endures 3-month delay for marijuana prescription
Keith Mullin has chronic neck, back and leg pain from a 1984 fall
After three months of frustration and delays, a Royal Canadian Navy veteran living in Middle Musquodoboit will only have to wait a few more days for his pain medication.
Keith Mullin was injured in 1984 while serving aboard HMCS Saguenay. He fell four metres onto a wooden crate, bending his spine backwards and damaging vertebrae. Since the incident, Mullin has had chronic neck, back and leg pain.
"It's like somebody driving a screwdriver into your back between the vertebra, and then just twisting it," he said.
Each opiate and pain medication he was prescribed had side effects. In 2005, doctors prescribed him medical marijuana and Mullin has been taking it ever since.
His most recent dosage was 10 grams of dried marijuana daily. Earlier this year, he attempted to fill his prescription and was told Veterans Affairs Canada no longer approved of his medication.
"We conducted a DUR [Drug Utilization Review] on this patient and have identified an area of concern," stated a letter sent from Veterans Affairs Canada to Mullin's doctor.
The letter asked the doctor to explain Mullin's "medical condition and the treatment regimen which warrants this degree of utilization and how long you expect this to continue."
Mullin's pain forces him to wear a knee brace, walk with two canes and sleep slumped forward in a chair for a few hours at a time because he is unable to lie on his injured back.
'They spent three months running me around in a circle'
Mullin said on five separate occasions, his doctor faxed a description of his injuries to Veterans Affairs Canada. Each time, Mullin said the government rejected the form, didn't acknowledge its receipt or requested another response.
"They spent three months running me around in a circle," he said.
Mullin and his ex-wife Terra McMullin-Mullin contacted CBC after she became concerned about his well-being.
"I can't do this," Mullin told CBC News in an interview Wednesday afternoon. "I can't keep doing this."
"I'm afraid that it's going to send him over the edge," said his ex-wife McMullin-Mullin. "I'm afraid he's going to take his own life."
Earlier Wednesday, CBC News contacted Veterans Affairs Canada and Med Releaf, the authorized provider of Mullin's marijuana.
Med Releaf did not respond to a request for an interview and Veterans Affairs Canada explained it could not discuss specific cases due to privacy concerns.
However, late Wednesday evening, both the government and the medicine provider contacted Mullin. Med Releaf told him he was approved and that his medication should arrive early next week.
"I'm very happy," Mullin said Wednesday night.
Veterans Affairs Canada has seen a huge increase in recent years in marijuana prescriptions for former soldiers. The department paid out $5.2 million in 2014-2015, a 12-fold increase over the previous year's total of $417,000 spent on medical marijuana for soldiers.
The department has not made any public efforts to reduce those costs. Earlier this year, Veterans Affairs Canada issued a statement to the CBC saying: "Marijuana is not an approved drug or medicine in Canada. The Government of Canada does not endorse the use of marijuana, but the courts have required reasonable access to a legal source of marijuana when authorized by a physician."