Advocates urging feds to remove tax on medical cannabis

Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana is urging the federal government to remove all taxes on medical cannabis.

“More than 480,000 Canadian patients require medical cannabis to help them manage a variety of issues, from chronic pain and arthritis to mental health,” said Gerald Major, president of CFAMM, in a press release. “The government is making it incredibly difficult for patients to manage the cost of their treatment and many tell us they can’t afford their physician recommended dose.”

CFAMM’s #DontTaxMedicine campaign has included more than 27,000 emails sent from patients and supporters to elected officials, as well as growing commitments from patient organizations and the cannabis sector, according to the press release.

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“Conservatives believe prescription medications shouldn’t be taxed. For consistency, this means that prescriptions for cannabis should also not be taxed,” said Marilyn Gladu, CPC member of parliament and health critic for the opposition.

When the federal government legalized recreational cannabis for adult consumer use, it introduced an excise duty on medical cannabis. While duties apply on products that pose a threat to public health or the environment, like tobacco, alcohol and gasoline, noted the CFAMM, it believes medicine doesn’t belong on this list. In some provinces, sales and excise taxes are combined to increase the cost of medical cannabis by up to 25 per cent, it said.

“We should prioritize patients’ needs, and that means ensuring low-cost access to medicine,” said Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, Liberal member of parliament for Toronto’s Beaches–East York riding. “Levying an excise tax on medical cannabis runs counter to this purpose, and it is a mistake. It is also out of step with other advanced jurisdictions. OregonColorado and California do not levy any excise tax on medical cannabis. We’re the only North American jurisdiction to tax medical cannabis the same as recreational.”

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Medical cannabis patients are already dealing with the challenges associated with a chronic illness, and many of them are in income-constrained situations, said Cam Battley, chief corporate officer at Aurora Cannabis.

“Adding to their burden by forcing them to pay the government in order to receive a prescribed medicine is simply wrong. It’s un-Canadian. So today we’re calling on all licensed producers in Canada to join us in a collective advocacy and lobbying campaign to successfully persuade government to abolish these unjust, unwise and punitive taxes on patients.”