Veteran-focused medical cannabis reimbursements in Canada surpass CAD$100 million

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

During the year 2020, medical cannabis reimbursements issued by Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) hit a milestone high. So much so, that the reimbursements appear to counterbalance an overall reduction in the general population’s expenditure.

Specifically, for the 2020-2021 fiscal year that concluded on March 31, a total of 15,369 clients were reimbursed 119.3 million Canadian dollars (USD$100 million) by VAC. 

This reimbursement data was gleaned from the department responsible for offering benefits and services for both serving and retired Armed Forces members.  

In comparison with figures from the year prior, this fresh data represents a major increase — 13,270 clients were reimbursed CAD$85.1 million (USD$70 million). 

From a global standpoint, scale year spending on medical cannabis surpassed revenue earned through Australia’s medical cannabis market in 2020; at which point, consumer spending amounted to CAD$100 million (USD$82 million).

What’s more, the 14,463 kilograms (31,885 pounds) of cannabis that was reimbursed by Veterans Affairs Canada last year surpassed the 10,000 kilograms that the European Union’s legal flower market managed to shift during the same year.

A quarter of industry revenue comes from spending on medical cannabis by Canadian veterans

Two years ago, Canadian household spending on medical cannabis products was CAS$618 million (USD$508.4 million). Then, in 2020, this amount dipped slightly to CAD$587 million (USD$383 million).

Excessive spending on medical cannabis by Canadian veterans coincides with greater overall expenditure in this segment of the market over the last few years. Putting things into perspective, veterans account for approximately a quarter of Canada’s medical cannabis market by spending.

The VAC’s figures regarding spending on medical cannabis by Canadian veterans exclude pensioners who are associated with the country’s national police service — Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Medical cannabis coverage is being offered in corporate benefits plans. For example, the North American country’s largest private-sector union, Uniform, teamed up with licensed cannabis producer Aleafia in late 2020 to offer its members plant-inclusive coverage. 

The military’s increased medical cannabis expenses are indicative of the reasons why private- and public-sector organizations are including such reparations in their corporate benefits plans.

Spending on medical cannabis by Canadian veterans: Opportunity knocks for providers 

Following the end of Canada’s adult-use cannabis prohibition in October 2018, a vast array of licensed medical cannabis producers across the country began dedicating more time and resources to ensuring that recreational consumer demand was met. 

Now, as more veterans obtain medical cannabis in Canada, big-name companies like Aurora Cannabis and Canopy Growth are capitalizing on an already-large customer base. 

In terms of revenue, Aurora takes the lead as Canada’s largest medical cannabis company. During its most recent financial quarter, the producer raked in CAD$36.4 million (USD$30 million) worth of medical sales.

“Veterans serve a special role for us out of respect to their service, so we do things differently for them. In many cases, we are providing a concierge service to them,” said Aurora CEO Miguel Martin during a phone interview with MJBizDaily. 

He noted that Aurora has a designated queue for all veterans who contact the Canadian cannabis company’s call center.

“They’re clearly a critical part for us,” he added.

Another Canadian cannabis company that boasts a dedicated call channel for veterans is Canopy Growth’s medical cannabis subsidiary, Spectrum Therapeutics.

“Whether through dedicated and specialized customer support for veterans, full coverage for the best in class Storz & Bickel vaporizer, or pre-approval and direct billing, Spectrum’s Veteran Care program simplifies medical cannabis and ensures Canadian Veterans have the reliable and barrier free access they need,” said Spectrum’s Head of Canada Medical, Amanda Daley, in an official statement.

Full vaporizer coverage, specially trained customer support and a 20 percent discount for continuously serving veterans are examples of the features included in Spectrum’s Veteran Care program.

You can view more data regarding VAC’s medical cannabis reimbursements and policies by clicking here.