05/03/2016 10:03 EDT | Updated 05/04/2017 01:12 EDT

NewsAlert: Auditor urges Veterans Affairs to rein in medical pot use, costs

OTTAWA — The latest report from the federal auditor general urges Veterans Affairs to get a grip on its medical marijuana program for injured ex-soldiers, which is expected to cost taxpayers a startling $25 million this year.

Michael Ferguson says the federal department has recognized the need to contain the program by imposing a limit on how much the government is willing to pay per gram.

But his latest report shows officials have failed to do so.

Veterans Affairs has covered medical marijuana costs since 2008, but more vets have applied since the regulations were overhauled three years ago, sending the cost through the roof — Ferguson says it will soon account for almost one-third of all federal drug coverage for ex-soldiers.

In 2013-14, there were 112 veterans taking prescribed pot at a cost of $408,000, but by the end of December 2015 some 1,320 ex-soldiers were enrolled at a cost of $12.1 million.

The audit also found the department does not effectively monitor high-risk drug utilization among veterans, nor does it effectively manage its drug benefits list.

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The Canadian Press