Advocates for medical cannabis are preparing to fight the government’s official proposal of a new excise tax for prescription pot.
Bill C-74, the Budget Implementation Act, includes a plan to tax legal cannabis at either $1 per gram or 10 percent of the product price, whichever is greater, Finance Canada officials confirmed yesterday (April 26). All products will fall under this increase barring some only containing trace amounts of THC, the psychoactive compound found in cannabis.
In a news release, NDP finance critic Peter Julian urged Minister of Finance Bill Morneau to zero-rate medical cannabis tax in line with all other prescription medicine and to exempt it from any additional taxes based on the fact that one-in-five Canadians already can’t afford their critical medicine.
“We believe that the Liberals’ medicinal cannabis tax policy is misconceived, unfair to patients, and damaging to public health. Why wasn’t this tax exempted from the budget implementation act?” asks Julian in the release.
The MP for New Westminster-Burnaby goes on to highlight the dangers of increasing the cost of medical cannabis, advising Morneau and the finance committee to “do the right thing” in the name of some of the country’s most vulnerable citizens.
“The cost of this prescription medicine is already an obstacle for the over 250,000 authorized cannabis patients. Government should be helping patients ease their financial burden. Unless this government steps in, this excise duty tax could very well push many Canadians and their families into a health crisis, at a time when the need for a universal pharmacare program in our country has never been greater,” he says.
P.E.I.-based cannabis activist and educator Annie MacEachern fears the tax will drive Canadians to the black market to meet their medicinal needs, undercutting one of the main reasons driving recreational legalization.