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Nova Scotia must pay for woman’s medical marijuana, judge rules

April 6, 2010

The province has been ordered to pay for the medical marijuana used by a woman who is on social assistance.

In a decision released this afternoon, the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia has ordered the Department of Community Services to pay for Sally Campbell’s prescription pot.

She suffers from a number of ailments and has a certificate from Health Canada giving her permission to use marijuana to help alleviate her pain and nausea.

The province had denied Campbell’s request that it increase her monthly allowance to cover the cost of the marijuana. Campbell appealed that decision to a one-person appeal board, which also denied her request.

Campbell went before a Supreme Court justice last month and won, with the decision released publicly this afternoon.

Dalhousie Legal Aid lawyer Donna Franey presented Campbell’s case, which she first took on in 2005.

“It’s been a long process,” and she believes that’s because this case deals with marijuana.

“I don’t think we’d be going through this if it was Tylenol 3. I think there’s so much scrutiny of this case because of what it is, I think that’s why it’s been such a difficult fight.”

Justice Minister Ross Landry declined to comment on the specific case because his department hasn’t yet reviewed it, but said he has no problem with the ruling if medical officials determine marijuana is a benefit to someone’s health.

“If that’s the medication for them I don’t have an issue with that as long as it’s controlled and regulated in an appropriate manner to ensure the safety of the person receiving the treatment,” Mr. Landry said at Province House this afternoon.

“I also want to make sure the public itself is safe.”

Franey said she has seen Campbell go without medical marijuana because she didn’t have the money to pay for it and she was debilitated by the pain. Franey called her Monday evening with news of the decision.

“She’s excited. Very, very pleased,” Franey said. “She’s tried a lot of other medications and they were just toxic, she suffered some horrible side effects. In terms of her health and quality of life, it’s going to make a huge difference.”

Franey predicts this decision could have far-reaching implications for the province because many disabled people are not able to work. She expects there will be others on income assistance who also use medical marijuana and will now come forward and ask the province to pay for it.

However, each applicant will have to do what Campbell did – appear before a special needs hearing and prove that the marijuana improves the client’s quality of life, works better than other medications and is essential to the person’s well-being.

Campbell’s doctor had provided a letter saying medical marijuana is “essential to her health and well-being.” In addition to helping with pain and nausea, he said it also improves her concentration, focus and energy level.

In his decision, Justice Gerald Moir writes that the appeal board really had only one rational finding based on the evidence provided.

“Medical marijuana is essential for Ms. Campbell.”

(bware@herald.ca)

Article originally available at: http://thechronicleherald.ca/Front/9015883.html

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