Dying Calgary nurse believes its time for medical marijuana health coverage

Dying Calgary nurse believes its time for medical marijuana health coverage

Judit Saunders It’s time Canadian governments covered the cost of medical marijuana, said a terminally ill Calgary nurse using the drug as medicine. Judit Saunders, whose breast cancer has spread to her brain and bones, said misguided attitudes inhibiting medical cannabis is harming patients like her, adding the treatment should fall under universal health insurance. “Someone who’s sick, maybe on disability with a limited income — who can afford it?” said Saunders, 30. “To me, it’s very discriminatory … cost is a huge, huge barrier.” The woman, who took part in a Toronto forum Tuesday with non-profit group Rethink Breast Cancer which is raising awareness of medical marijuana’s merits, said she spends about $400 a month on cannabis oil to relieve her cancer and chemotherapy symptoms. She said the orally-consumed medicine, dubbed honey oil, has worked wonders in controlling pain, nausea, appetite suppression and sleep deprivation. By comparison, opioids and other dangerous pharmaceuticals weren’t as effective and guaranteed harsh side effects, said Saunders. “I almost consider it my umbrella medication — it has totally given me a quality of life,” she said. During a trip to California, in which she was forced by law to leave her medication at home, her health deteriorated sharply with an inability to sleep a prime problem, she said. “I came back home, got back on the oil and slept perfectly,” she said, adding she’s also consuming the oil in hopes it will slow or reduce her cancer. Antiquated attitudes towards cannabis in Alberta and Calgary has city council considering keeping medical marijuana patients away from schools and forcing her to rely on a Vancouver dispensary to supply her cannabis oil through the mail, said Saunders. She’s not even certain of the legality of receiving her medicine by post, she added. “If authorities open it, they could confiscate it, it’s a grey zone,” said Saunders. Provincial coverage for marijuana remains a premature scenario, said Carolyn Ziegler, spokeswoman for Alberta Health. “Alberta Health neither endorses nor discourages the use of medical marijuana,” she said in a statement. “As marijuana is technically still illegal, it is not covered by Alberta Health Insurance.” BKaufmann@postmedia.com on Twitter: @BillKaufmannjrn Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story referred to Saunders using her maiden name.

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