Why medical cannabis should be tax exempt

If there were any doubts that cannabis legalization was just a huge money grab for the government, look no further than the excise tax that will apply to both medical and recreational cannabis. The excise tax (which is either a dollar per gram or 10% of the sale price, whichever is higher) will be in addition to all of the other assorted mark-ups and taxes, which all but guarantees the government will fail in their goal to undercut the illicit market.

Particularly problematic is how the government is lumping recreational and medical cannabis use together when it comes to the excise tax. While the fact that cannabis is used both medicinally and recreationally may be confusing to some, there are patients with a legitimate medical need and their cannabis should not be taxed since all other prescription medicines are tax exempt.

Why medical cannabis should NOT be taxed

E-1528 is a petition that’s been going around the last few months that calls on the Canadian government to remove the excise tax from medical cannabis. It was initiated by Heather Tayler, an advisor at the CAMCD, and is sponsored by Don Davies, the NDP MP for BC’s Vancouver Kingsway riding.

Their reasons for making medical cannabis tax exempt are listed below:

  • Applying any tax to medically prescribed cannabis is inconsistent with the taxation of all other prescription medicines, which are tax exempt;
  • Taxes applied to medical cannabis create financial barriers to health and well-being for patients, and discourage Canadians from accessing the regulated medical cannabis system;
  • Patients already pay sales tax on medical cannabis and aren’t eligible for reimbursement under most insurance plans in Canada; and
  • The federal government’s newly announced proposal to apply excise taxes to medical cannabis, in addition to the existing sales tax, will disadvantage Canadians seeking relief from symptoms including side effects from cancer treatments, pain, seizures, anxiety and insomnia.

To sign the petition, go here:

The petition is open for signatures until Oct. 17, so spread the word as much as you can. As of writing, only 5697 signatures have been collected- shockingly low considering more than 200,000 Canadians use cannabis medically.

Meanwhile, CannTrust says it will absorb the excise tax on behalf of patients

CannTrust is a licensed producer that announced it will “continue to put medical cannabis patients’ needs first” and absorb the excise tax on medical cannabis, according to an Aug. 28 press release.

The press release takes a typically laudatory tone as it praises CannTrust’s “competitive pricing” and its “commitment to affordable medicine”, but that may be questionable as a quick look at their online shop shows their dried flower ranges from $9-12 per gram- not exactly compassionate pricing!

If you added the 10% excise tax onto those prices, that’s a massive rip-off compared to the $6.83 per gram Canadians pay on average, but it should be noted that CannTrust does sell shake for $4.50 and $7.50 per gram, although those products were temporarily unavailable at time of writing.

But you can’t deny that while it’s a great way to build goodwill with medical cannabis patients, it’s also a savvy business move because they get to benefit from all the positive PR while also probably praying that this petition succeeds.

Photo courtesy of Al Jazeera.