Thursday, 20 October 2016

You're Legal, Now Let's Save You Some Money!


Becoming legal to use medicinal cannabis in the ACMPR is gaining in popularity and all kinds of clinics are opening to aid in the process.  Canadian Cannabis Clinics is one that will complete the entire process free of charge, payment via your valid provincial health card.  Now that's single payer healthcare!

Unfortunately though, the legality of Cannabis doesn't change the price.  Legal or not, you're paying a lot for something that insurers refuse to cover.  Patients trying medicinal cannabis are shocked to learn they'll pay hundreds of dollars out of pocket each month when they used to have full coverage for their meds.  I advise all patients to keep proof of all Cannabis purchases and all equipment purchases to be claimed on their taxes as a healthcare expense.  For many, getting legal is a step towards relief but in the meantime, how do you afford to pay for your mail order cannabis?

So many Canadians were prescribed pills and now they're taking pills for the side effects of the other pills and it's effecting their overall quality of life.  Our country's disability, pensions, and assistance programs will cover all other medications including addictive opioids but they balk when asked to cover this doctor-prescribed medicine, quoting the lack of a DIN (drug identification number) as a reason to refuse.  I'm grateful that Veteran's Affairs is covering the Veterans' cannabis but what about the rest of us?  Is VAC not governed by the same need for a DIN??

Yet I hear there are patients getting coverage.  The persistent, daily-calling patients who refuse to give up-- can you be one of those?  All it will take is one ... one insurance company to say yes to everyone thus treating Cannabis like the legitimate medicine that it is.  That one company will be the new world leader of insurance coverage.

For Ontarians on ODSP, there is a form called "Request for an Unlisted Drug Product" that some
people have used to get their Cannabis covered.  If you know anyone on ODSP, please share this form with them.  In addition to this, many patients on ODSP have gotten coverage for a vaporizer by asking their doctor to write them a recommendation to use one.  And lastly, if you have health coverage through work, ask if you have an "Health Spending Account".  These are offered through most major insurance companies and are one more opportunity for coverage.

In September, the government announced the new ACMPR and with it, the ability for patients to grow their own Cannabis.  I have friends who grow legally now and they boast a price per gram of .35 to .50 cents when grown outdoors. Perhaps a bit higher for indoor, but in reality, the best way to save money in this program is to grow your own cannabis.  Or in other words, practice some Horticultural Therapy!

This process to get legal to grow your own is as simple as 1-2-3:

1). Get an original Medical Document aka Prescription from a Doctor.
2). Complete and print the online application.
3). Mail these two to Health Canada.

It's important to note here that many Cannabis clinics are refusing to write grow-your-own prescriptions citing quality concerns even though the Supreme Court of Canada deems it safe.
Rest assured, other clinics are here for you.  For example, Canadian Cannabis Clinics respects your right to grow your own medicine.

In the meantime, many of the producers of our medical cannabis have stepped up with compassionate pricing discounts for we patients.  Depending on your provider, you could get from 10 to 30% off when you provide a NOA showing between $24k and $30k, but others are judging discounts on an individual basis.  Many offer discounts for anyone on government pension or assistance.  It's in your best interest to discuss these discounts with your producer's customer service people.  Discounts mean a happy and satisfied customer, the producers want this in you.

Here are links to the sites for the producers who offer compassionate pricing at this time:

ABcann - Aurora - Bedrocan - Broken Coast - Canna Farms - CanniMed - CannTrust - Delta 9 Bio Tech - Emerald - Maricann - MedReleaf - Mettrum - Organigram - Tweed

Let's switch now to how you can make your medicine last, thus saving money.  Whether they're paying $5 or $15 a gram, a lot of patients try to ration their medication by adding tobacco to it. Please don't do this.  What's the sense of saving money if you're harming your lungs?  This study from 1973 in The New England Journal of Medicine shows that cannabinoids dilate the bronchial by almost 40%.  If you're mixing tobacco with your cannabis, all of that nicotine and tar goes deep into the alveoli allowing for further damage and impairment.  What you can do though, is purchase trim from your producer.  Not all sell their trim, but some producers sell theirs for as little as $2.50 a gram!  No more mixing tobacco;  use trim instead.

For those of you non-smoking and non-vaping patients, the oil provided by the producers is a great choice but can be costly.  A one gram per day prescription allows you 3 bottles of this oil per month. Ranging from $95 to $185, that can add up fast.  It's much much more economical to make your own oil infusions.  All this means is that instead of buying the oil, you'll buy the desired strains of dried cannabis with the cannabinoid profile best suited to your health condition and with as much skill as it takes to bake cookies and make stew in a crock pot, you can have your very own cannabis infused oil. For those of us with mild pain levels, the trim mentioned above is a very affordable way to make butter or oil infusions to be used in cooking.  I've been making oil infusions for many years starting with stocks and stems.  It's all medicinal!  Here is a blogpost I wrote showing one of many simple ways to infuse the oil of your choice with Cannabis.

Another invention very worthy of mention here is the Magical Butter machine:  the bread-maker of cannabis infusions.  You literally toss it all in together and choose the appropriate setting and in 2 to 8 hours your medicine is infused.  Strain and medicate.

I have a friend with a lot of chronic pain that she legally treats with medicinal cannabis.  She went home one day in between errands with a friend so she could medicate.  As she stood in the kitchen munching on a muffin, her friend asked if she was going to medicate so they could get going.  She said, "yep ... I'm almost done."  She eats her medicine.  Every single day.  That's right, it's Canada circa 2016, we have a balanced parliament and we like to eat our cannabis!

I'm a legal medicinal cannabis patient and I struggle with the cost of my medicine every single month like so many of you.  I truly believe that the prices will soon begin to lower.  This industry of 35 players is growing fast and the bar for reasonable affordability is currently being decided as more and more of these producers routinely run out of $5 grams.  I say the patient has spoken, we need more $5 grams!

In the meantime, call your producer!  Ask them about their compassionate pricing discounts.  Ask questions of those in the know, read blogs and forums too.  To make sure you're buying the right strains for your condition, check out the Canvasrx site to see what the producers have to offer.  And finally, keep receipts of all things Cannabis so you can claim them on your taxes.

This transition will be costly, but taking back your own health is priceless.