Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana (CFAMM) expressed outrage on behalf of patients across Canada after learning the federal budget would apply a sin tax to medical cannabis.
CFAMM has been campaigning against the government’s misguided plan to tax medical and recreational cannabis at the same rate since the government first floated the idea in a discussion paper from the Minister of Finance.
“We have heard from tens of thousands of patients across the country,” said Jonathan Zaid, Executive Director of Canadians for Access to Medical Marijuana (CFAMM) “This new tax adds insult to injury for a community of patients already struggling to afford their medicine.”
Medical cannabis patients rarely have the cost of their medicine covered by insurance and it is also the only medicine to which a sales tax is applied. A recent Environics poll found that a majority of Canadians (62%) are opposed to taxing medical cannabis. And to date, over 16,000 Canadians and a group of 12 non-profits have advocated for the elimination of it. Despite this fierce opposition, the federal government decided to forge ahead, implementing the new tax in its federal budget today.
The government will exempt some products such as non-THC and low-THC medicine from the excise tax but those products represent a small minority of those used by patients. “It’s quite clear that Canadians understand that taxing medical cannabis is unfair and wrong,” said Jonathan Zaid. “Exempting a small minority of patients does not address the affordability issue and implies some patients are more legitimate than others. Looking into a reimbursement program implies patients can afford to pay for their medicine in the first instance. They can’t.”
Despite disappointment with the approach to taxation, CFAMM was pleased to see that Health Canada will evaluate the drug review and approval process to ensure it keeps up with cannabis developments but urged the government to commit to meaningful timelines and invest urgently in medical cannabis research to ultimately work towards the full zero-rating of medical cannabis.