Man awarded $30,000 for medical marijuana costs
A Maple Ridge man should receive $30,000 to cover the cost of seven joints of marijuana a day because of botched back surgery, the B.C. Supreme Court has said in a potentially landmark decision.
Michael Joinson, a 43-year-old father of five teenagers who has a federal exemption to use the prohibited drug, estimated he consumed 20 grams of medicinal cannabis daily after lower-back surgery in 2007.
He had asked the court to order payment for "a lifetime supply," which he calculated would cost $822,000.
But Justice Neill Brown would only approve payment "based on a maximum of five grams per day," he wrote, Health Canada's stipulated "safe" dosage.
Also, he said, the cost of Joinson's recreational use (about half his consumption) should not be covered, and the total had to be reduced to account for the benefits of a chronic-pain program.
Head of the non-profit Always Growing Green Society, which operates the year-old TAGGS Medical Cannabis Dispensary in the South Haney neighbourhood, Joinson received a total of $310,000 in damages — including lost earnings and medical expenses — as a result of negligent lower-back surgery by Dr. Navraj Heran.
Joinson said Tuesday he was glad the decision will set a precedent for medicinal-cannabis users but was disappointed in the global award.
"It was supposed to be for the rest of my life," he noted.
"What I go home with [after paying bills] is $110,000 or so for not being able to do the things I could do for the rest of my life. That's a drag. But of course, it's a huge win for all medicinal-marijuana patients across Canada. The justice recognized the benefits of medicinal cannabis and included it as future-care cost."
The court accepted the evidence that Joinson reduced his reliance on morphine by managing his pain with cannabis.
"Without use of medical marihuana [the legal spelling of the plant's name] or a synthetic substitute, Mr. Joinson would have to increase his use of morphine, which is detrimental, particularly to his functioning: he does not function as well, physically or mentally, without use of medical marihuana," Justice Brown wrote. "His treating physicians endorsed this treatment option, supporting him in his use of medical marihuana. Other physicians may disagree, but his family physician and psychiatrist see him on a regular basis and, in this particular instance, are in the best place to consider what is medically necessary."
Joinson had been suffering with lower back and left leg pain when he went in for surgery, but three operations since 2007 left him with chronic back pain and other discomforts.
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