Report Reveals Massive Inefficiencies in Government's Medical Cannabis
Program, Urges Cost Coverage for Medicine
August 8, 2007: A report released today by the BC Compassion Club Society (BCCCS) uncovers massive spending inefficiencies in Health Canada's Medical Cannabis program.
It was recently discovered that the government is marking up their supply of cannabis by 1500%--And that many people who have ordered the government's supply are unable to afford it and have been cut off from accessing this sole legal source. The BCCCS felt this situation warranted further scrutiny of the cultivation contracts between Health Canada and its supplier of cannabis, Prairie Plant Systems (PPS).
The report's highlights include findings that: 63% of the cannabis Health Canada buys from PPS is unusable, at a cost of $220,000 this year; and 80% of the total cost of the government program are operational costs, including the cost of reports at a price of $86,740 per month. These are some of the costs being passed on to patients. The original contract between Health Canada and PPS began in December 2000, with the cost of the contract now totaling over $10 million.
The report finds that community-based dispensaries are more cost-effective--while also providing higher quality services to many more people who suffer from critical and chronic illnesses. It costs the
government $500,000 more per year to serve 10 times fewer people than the BC Compassion Club. The
BC Compassion Club, a non-profit medical cannabis dispensary, just celebrated its 10th year anniversary
of distributing high quality cannabis to over 4000 critically and chronically ill Canadians. Together
compassion clubs across the country serve an estimated 10,000 people, whereas Health Canada's program
has licensed only about 1,700 Canadians, of whom only 350 are accessing their cannabis from PPS.
"Health Canada is requiring taxpayers and medical cannabis patients to fund inefficient practices, capital
upgrades, and equipment for a private contractor. Instead of providing affordable medicine to those in
need, Health Canada has chosen a policy and program that seemingly creates a windfall for one monopoly
supplier," states Rielle Capler, the report's author.
The report highlights the need for cost coverage of this important medicine, regardless of the source. "The
cost of cannabis for those in medical need must be covered under Canada's universal health care system
as it is for other medicine," says Ms. Capler. The Attorney General's office is in the early stages of an
audit of certain user fees in Health Canada's program.
The Vancouver Island Compassion Society (VICS) is currently in court with a constitutional challenge of
the government's program. Senator Pierre Claude Nolin and Lynne Belle-Isle of the Canadian AIDS
Society testified against the program this week in Victoria. "It's clear from the testimony of patients
enrolled in this program that the cost is an obstacle to safe access to medical cannabis," said Philippe
Lucas, director of VICS. "Compassion clubs have long urged the government to explore cost-coverage
options through provincial or federal funds."