One thing has always stood apart between medical cannabis markets and those that cater to retail sales…taxes! In states throughout the United States that have legal medical cannabis programs, patients do not have to pay the same excise tax that applies to recreational cannabis. Canada legalized medical cannabis in 2001, but still, medical cannabis patients have to endure what is known as an “excise” or “sin tax” on their medical cannabis.
Unlike other prescription medications in Canada, medical cannabis faces taxation, and that cost trickles to the patient. Also, unlike other medicines, medical cannabis typically doesn’t qualify for insurance coverage under most private and provincial health plans.
The Changing Times
While there hasn’t been much uproar in the past regarding cannabis taxes, there have been some recent changes. Since retail legalization, many patients have noticed an excise tax stamp on their medical cannabis packaging. This stamp is a sign that the licensed producer of the cannabis in question has paid the necessary tax on the patients’ behalf.
While some licensed producers have chosen to pay this tax and not pass on the burden to patients, others have not. In most cases, this additional tax has cost medical patients paying approx $1 more per gram. While this may not sound like a lot, a dollar per gram quickly adds up each month. This is especially true for those who live on a fixed income.
Don’t Tax Medicine Initiative Gains Ground
One organization saw just how big of a burden this can be for patients. This resulted in the “Don’t Tax Medicine” campaign which has been gaining much ground. This campaign is pushing the message that medical cannabis should be treated just like any other medicine in Canada. The campaign hopes to remove all taxes from medical cannabis purchases once and for all. It was started by a group known as the Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana.
A Note from the Front Lines
The VP of CFAMM, Gerald Major, stated the following in regard to excise tax calculations on medical cannabis purchases;
“I think there’s a province where it ends up being 26% of the total cost. That’s a quarter of your purchase on tax, for people that already can’t afford their medicine.”
He predicts that patients faced with excise tax could be looking to face up to a 10% reduction in their medical cannabis intake due to costs.
Major also stated the following in regards to the 480,000 Canadian medical cannabis patients.
“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.”
Tracking the Taxes
To give you an idea of just how much money we’re talking about, Aurora Cannabis has launched a Cannabis Tax Ticker. This ticker displays down to the dollar the amount of taxes paid on medical cannabis by patients since 2014 and the current total is well over $125M. Check out the website here to learn more about the “Don’t Tax Medicine” initiative and here to see firsthand just how many millions the government has collected from medical cannabis patients in taxes in less than 5 years.