No medical marijuana for N.S. welfare recipients
Nova Scotians on social assistance will no longer be able to get medical marijuana, gym memberships or hot tubs as a special need.
The Department of Community Services is tightening the rules for its special needs funding.
Until now, some people on income assistance were able to force the department to pay for pot or massage therapy, for example, because the rules were vague about what qualified as a special need.
Between 20 and 25 people who already receive support will continue to get it.
But new clearer language means others asking for the same help will not be eligible, said Dan Troke, who oversees the program.
"Clearly going forward the position as it was intended to be all along would be any item that is not on the Nova Scotia drug formulary would not be an item that would be covered under special need," he said.
Last year, one woman on social assistance won her court fight to force the department to pay for her medical marijuana.
In another case, an appeal board ordered the department to cover the costs of a woman who said she needed to buy equipment to grow her own pot for medical purposes.
"From a perspective of outside of the true intent of the special need, these would be items that we would see as not meeting the true intent," Troke said.
Under the new rules, which took effect Monday, Community Services will only cover medically related items and services covered by the provincial Pharmacare program. The department says this is how other provinces handle requests for medical marijuana.
Community Services Minister Denise Peterson-Rafuse said the new criteria for receiving funding must be clear and consistent so everyone is treated the same.
The provincial auditor general had recommended clear systems and controls so that special needs funding is spent as intended.