Nova Scotia

N.S. must pay for medical marijuana costs: couple

The Nova Scotia government is facing a lawsuit from a couple claiming the province should pay for their equipment to produce medical marijuana because they're too poor.
The Cumberland County couple have permission to grow 25 marijuana plants. (Ed Andrieski/Associated Press)

The Nova Scotia government is facing a lawsuit by a couple claiming the province should pay for their equipment to produce medical marijuana because they're too poor.

Sam and his wife, Tanya, have disabilities and are on income assistance. They both have licences from Health Canada to grow marijuana for their own use and are allowed to keep a total of 25 plants.

But the Cumberland County couple say they don't have the money to cover the lighting costs.

"We're out of medication quite often," Sam told CBC News. "We can't keep up on the amount that we need to grow."

Sam doesn't want his last name used. He fears his grow operation will be targeted by thieves.

Sam and Tanya, both in their 40s, use marijuana to lessen their pain. He has glaucoma and a blood disorder, while she has debilitating injuries from a car crash.

They want the Nova Scotia Supreme Court to force the province to cover a one-time setup fee of $2,500 and $100 every three months for chemicals and supplies.

Sam says that according to a lawyer for the Department of Community Services, about $200,000 has already been spent fighting their request.

"That just goes to show you that there's something wrong with the system when they're willing to spend that amount of money to stop two disabled people from getting their medication," he said. "It's pathetic and sickening."

The lawsuit is against Community Services, the cabinet minister responsible and the income assistance appeals board. Sam and Tanya also allege they've been discriminated against by the department since launching the suit.

They are representing themselves. Their next court date is in October.

Community Services did not return calls to CBC on Thursday.

Last year, a Halifax woman won her legal fight to have the province pay for her medical marijuana.

'Public outrage'

The lawyer in that case, Donna Franey, said she believes Community Services is afraid to be seen as endorsing the use of prescribed marijuana.

As of May, 1,133 people in Nova Scotia were allowed to have marijuana for medical purposes.

It's not known how many people in the province have licences to produce pot. Health Canada says it won't provide a provincial breakdown for privacy reasons.

"I have a feeling that they feel that's going to have some sort of public outrage if they're seen to be supporting this prescribed medication for people by paying for it," she said.

Sally Campbell asked Community Services for an increase in her income assistance to cover the cost of pot as a special need. Both the department and an appeal board turned her down.

A court later ruled that it wasn't up to the department to decide if the benefits of medical marijuana have been proven and ordered it to start paying for Campbell's pot.