MPs, Patients, and the Medical Cannabis Sector Urge Government to Remove Unfair Taxes on Medical Cannabis

Published: February 21, 2019

MPs, Patients, and the Medical Cannabis Sector Urge Government to Remove Unfair Taxes on Medical Cannabis

Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana (“CFAMM”) spoke on Parliament Hill today, joined by patients, elected officials and allies in the cannabis sector urging the federal government to remove all taxes on medical cannabis. As the federal government prepares to release the 2019 Budget, CFAMM called on all citizens to stand with Canadian patients in telling their local and federal representatives: #DontTaxMedicine!

“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, CFAMM’s President. “The government is making it incredibly difficult for patients to manage the cost of their treatment and many tell us they cannot afford their physician recommended dose.”

CFAMM’s #DontTaxMedicine campaign has garnered widespread support. With more than 27,000 emails sent from patients and supporters to elected officials and rapidly growing commitments from patient organizations and the cannabis sector — the #DontTaxMedicine campaign is going on the offensive to ensure these unfair taxes are removed once and for all. CFAMM was joined by elected officials showing support across party lines, including Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, the Liberal MP for Toronto’s Beaches–East York riding, CPC MP Marilyn Gladu, Health Critic for the Official Opposition, and MP Don Davies, Health Critic for the NDP.

“Conservatives believe that prescription medications should not be taxed. For consistency, this means that prescriptions for cannabis should also not be taxed,” said CPC Member of Parliament Marilyn Gladu, Sarnia-Lambton, Health Critic for the Official Opposition.

When the federal government moved forward with legalizing cannabis for adult consumer use, it introduced an excise duty on medical cannabis that raised costs and hurt patients. Excise duties apply on products that pose a threat to public health or the environment, like tobacco, alcohol and gasoline. Medicine has no place on this list. In some provinces, sales and excise taxes are combined to increase the cost of medical cannabis by up to 25 percent.

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

Taxes on medical cannabis are also driving patients into the unregulated black market and forcing seniors, veterans, parents of sick children, and other vulnerable or low-income patients to worry about how they will afford their medication. Over-taxing can lead to under-dosing, which can aggravate symptoms, leading to additional strain onto Canadian public health systems. These costs are passed on to all taxpayers.

“I’m looking at a 900 dollar a month bill, nobody can maintain that. That’s a mortgage payment,” said Vincent Lefaive, retired Durham Regional Police Service sergeant and medical cannabis patient. “The financial burden of my medication makes it impossible for me to use my full dose. The government’s untenable decision to tax medical cannabis is directly impacting my ability to afford what my doctor recommended.”

CFAMM doubled down on the #DontTaxMedicine campaign earlier this month, receiving growing support from many patient organizations and from various corporate supporters in the cannabis sector. Industry supporters at this stage of the campaign include Aurora, Hexo, Tilray, Organigram, PureSinse, Strainprint, Ample Organics, and Gage Cannabis. Over 40 patient groups have shown support for the campaign, including the Arthritis society, Canadian Spondylitis Association, Best Medicine Coalition, Save Your Skin Foundation, Canadian Council of the Blind, Gastrointestinal Society, Canadian Society of Intestinal Research, Crohn’s and Colitis Canada, Canadian PKU and Allied Disorders.

At the media conference on Parliament Hill today, Aurora Cannabis’ Chief Corporate Officer Cam Battley unveiled a “Cannabis Tax Ticker” that displays the estimated total tax revenue collected from medical cannabis patients since legalization, which can be viewed and shared at CannabisTaxTicker.com.

“Medical cannabis patients are already dealing with all the challenges associated with a chronic illness, and many of them are in income constrained situations,” Battley said. “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 are 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.”

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