Ottawa’s Plan to Slap a New Tax on Medical Cannabis Sparks Outrage

Article by Daniel LeBlanc, The Globe and Mail

Ottawa’s plan to slap a new tax on medical cannabis sparks outrage. Growing flowers of cannabis intended for the medical marijuana market are shown at OrganiGram in Moncton, N.B., on April 14, 2016.

The federal government has angered proponents of medical cannabis and the opposition by announcing that its planned excise tax on recreational products will also apply to marijuana that is used to treat various illnesses.

A large number of groups had been calling on Ottawa to remove the sales tax that is currently imposed on medical marijuana. Instead, they were shocked to learn on Friday that sales taxes will continue to apply on medical marijuana, but also that an excise tax of $1 a gram will be added on the product.

“It’s a double whammy. This is of great concern for Canadian patients,” said Philippe Lucas, executive director of the Canadian Medical Cannabis Council.

Ottawa is arguing that it does not want to create a financial incentive for users to buy medical marijuana for recreational purposes, but advocates said the excise tax will simply penalize sick Canadians – and push some of them toward opioid use.

“Today, patients are forced to make treatment choices based on finances, including switching to less effective medications with severe side effects, such as opioids. The proposed application of excise tax to medical cannabis will further compound these issues and will impose significant barriers for patient access,” said Jonathan Zaid, executive director of Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana.

B.C. lawyer Kirk Tousaw said the courts have defended the right of sick Canadians to affordable access to medical marijuana.

“This is an adding a 10-per-cent burden to the existing cost, so it’s new taxation aimed only at sick people. That is contrary to everything we know about how we should do medicine,” he said.

The NDP said it will fight the proposal in Parliament, hoping to convince MPs from all parties to reject the proposal.

“From almost every public health angle, the decision by the Liberals to apply the excise tax is inconsistent and contrary to public health policy,” said NDP MP Don Davies.

Conservative health critic Marilyn Gladu said that medical marijuana should be exempt of any taxes.

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