Veterans say medical marijuana helps treat PTSD
In May, an auditor general's report found the number of veterans using medical marijuana increased from just over 100 to more than 1,300, in just three years.
And the costs are significant.
Veterans Affairs paid out more than $12 million in marijuana prescriptions in just nine months of 2015 — that's about one-third of all drug payouts to veterans.
The minister of Veterans Affairs has launched an internal review into the matter but in the meantime many former soldiers say medical marijuana helps them cope with PTSD.
Retired Lt. Col. Robert Martin struggled with PTSD after two tours in Afghanistan with the Canadian military.
"I came back in February of 2009 and my wife at the time realized that something was drastically wrong, but I wouldn't listen," Martin tells The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.
"I'd failed a Canadian Forces physical fitness test for the first time in my 34-year career. I felt that my career was over because of that," recalls Martin.
Martin says medical marijuana helped in his recovery.
"Within two days I was off my highly-addictive chemical sleep sedative."
He tells Tremonti that waking up and feeling like he could function was key to getting through such a dark place.
"Sleep, Anna Maria, in PTSD or coping with illness or injury is critical."
"If you don't have it, you don't survive."
The results from the Veteran Affairs Canada review of its policy on marijuana for medical purposes will be released in the coming weeks. The minister was not available for an interview with The Current but sent a statement that reads in part:
"The Minister consulted with medical professionals, licensed producers, stakeholders and Veteran beneficiaries."
"Recognizing that the use of marijuana for medical purposes continues to be an emerging practice, Veterans Affairs Canada will continue to monitor developments ... adjust our approach as required."
When Tremonti asks Martin what he wants the minister of Veterans Affairs to understand about the drug, Martin responds, " I would like them to know that it is a powerful medication for symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder."
"Keep supporting us, please."
This segment was produced by The Current's Kristin Nelson.