The Department of Community Services in Nova Scotia, Canada, are getting stricter about what qualifies for special needs funding, and the changes to the guidelines say that people on “income assistance” (sort of like welfare) will no longer have their medical marijuana, therapeutic hot tubs, or gym memberships paid for by the province.

Until know, some people receiving government funds were able to get those items paid for because the rules on “special needs” were somewhat vague.

New, clearer language, however, means that while the 20-25 people currently receiving these needs will still do so, no new people will be eligible for the same services, at least according to Dan Troke who oversees the program.

Speaking to the press, Troke said, “Clearly going forward the position as it was intended to be all along would be any item that is not on the Nova Scotia drug formulary would not be an item that would be covered under special need.”

Last year one woman receiving social assistance went to court to force the department to pay for her medical marijuana, and won her case. Another woman had the costs of the equipment she needed in order to grow her own medicinal cannabis covered after her case went to an appeal board.

But under the new rules, Troke explains, “From a perspective of outside of the true intent of the special need, these would be items that we would see as not meeting the true intent.”

Instead, as of yesterday, Community Services will cover only those medical items and services also covered by the province’s Pharmacare program, which is how medical marijuana is handled elsewhere in Canada.

Why change the rules? Community Services Minister Denise Peterson-Rafuse says the new criteria is meant to be clear and consistent and ensure that everyone is treated equally.

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