FINA Appearance: Federal Budget Shouldn’t Tax Medicine

FEDERAL BUDGET SHOULDN’T TAX MEDICINE

OTTAWA, ON – Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana (CFAMM) will fight for the rights of patients at Parliamentary hearings on the 2018 budget today, arguing against a proposed sin tax on medical cannabis.

Appearing before the Standing Committee on Finance, CFAMM representatives will urge MPs to amend Bill C-74 and eliminate the proposed sin tax on medical cannabis (watch here).

“Struggling patients can’t understand why, when they’re doing their very best to take care of themselves, that the government would propose a sin tax on their medicine and treat it like alcohol, tobacco, or gasoline,” said James O’Hara, President and CEO of Canadians for Access to Medical Marijuana (CFAMM). “It’s time for the Canadian government to step up and treat medical cannabis as a medicine. That means no tax and especially no sin tax for medical cannabis patients”.

CFAMM has been leading a national campaign, called #DontTaxMedicine, against the government’s misguided plan to tax medical and recreational cannabis at the same rate. Over 20,000 Canadians have written their MPs calling for the elimination of tax on medical cannabis.

In an open letter sent to the Finance Committee today, a coalition of national non-profit organizations continued to advocate as a united front and firmly recommended that the government eliminate tax on medical cannabis.

“Both the general public and the healthcare communities overwhelmingly support eliminating tax on medical cannabis,” said James O’Hara. “The Finance Committee has an opportunity to listen to Canadians who require cannabis for medical purposes. This committee can and should reverse the government’s misguided decision to apply a sin tax on patients’ medicine.”

CFAMM commends NDP Finance Critic Peter Julian, MP (New Westminster-Burnaby) for putting forward an amendment to Bill C-74 which would remove the proposed sin tax on medical cannabis and calls on all members of the Standing Committee on Finance to stand for Canadian patients by supporting the proposed amendment.

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Budget 2018: What it means for medical cannabis

Background

In November 2017, the federal government announced a proposal to apply an excise/sin tax to both non-medical and medical cannabis after legalization. The excise tax is proposed to be applied at the rate of $1/gram or 10% of the product price (whichever is greater of the two) in addition to the pre-existing GST/HST sales tax.

On February 27th, the federal government further solidified their plan in their 2018 budget (see pg. 177). Although lots of details are still uncertain, we broke down what the latest announcement potentially means for patients. We know many are disappointed with this news and will continue strongly advocating for the elimination of tax.

Announcement Highlights  

  • The proposed excise tax framework will generally apply to cannabis products that contain THC
  • Low-THC, CBD oils (under 0.3% THC) will not be subject to the excise tax
  • Pharmaceutical products on prescription (with a DIN) and derived from cannabis will be exempt.
    • This refers to prescription cannabis-based medicines like Sativex (which currently are zero-rated/exempt from tax anyway).
  • Work will be undertaken by Health Canada to evaluate the drug review and approval process so that Canadians in need have better access to an array of medicinal options.
  • The Government will also examine options for establishing a rebate program to retroactively reimburse Canadians an amount in recognition of the federal portion of the proposed excise duty that was imposed on equivalent products prior to them being given a Drug Identification Number.
    • It is currently unclear what this means for patients and how it would be applied. We are working to get further details. 
  • Sales tax (GST/HST) will continue to apply

This is not yet implemented and may still change. The government has stated they intend to bring these changes into effect upon the implementation of non-medical cannabis legalization. 

Full details can be found in Budget 2018 (pg. 177) and in Tax Measures: Supplementary Information (pg. 40).

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Poll: Majority of Canadians Opposed to Taxing Medical Cannabis

TORONTO – A majority of Canadians are opposed to taxing medical cannabis, a new Environics poll has found.

According to the poll conducted in January of 2018, Canadian public opinion on medical cannabis is largely favourable, with nearly eight in ten Canadians supporting cannabis use for medical purposes (78% somewhat or strongly support), and six in ten preferring to see medical cannabis treated like all other prescriptions, and not be subject to tax (62% somewhat or strongly support).

The poll was jointly commissioned by Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana (CFAMM), a national non-profit organization that represents medical cannabis patients, and   the Canadian Medical Cannabis Council (CMCC), an organization which represents stakeholders committed to advancing the highest standards of integrity and safety in Canada’s medical cannabis industry. It found that only two in ten support the government’s new taxation model as it is proposed.

“It’s quite clear that Canadians understand that taxing medical cannabis is unfair and wrong,” said Jonathan Zaid, Executive Director of Canadians for Access to Medical Marijuana (CFAMM).

“Taxes placed on medical cannabis create further financial barriers to treatment and discourage Canadians from accessing the legal and regulated system.”

To date, over 16,000 Canadians and a group of 12 non-profits have advocated for the elimination of tax on medical cannabis, though Finance Minister Morneau has not made any commitment to drop the proposal.

“The only fair decision the government can make is to treat medical cannabis like every other prescription and accordingly exempt it from tax,” said Zaid.

A total of 1,514 adults 18yrs+ from across Canada were interviewed using an online methodology during the period: January 5 – 7, 2018.

About Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana

Founded in 2014, Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana (CFAMM) is a federal non-profit, patient-run organization dedicated to protecting and improving the rights of medical cannabis patients. CFAMM’s goal is to enable patients to obtain fair and safe access to medical cannabis with a special focus on affordability, including private and public insurance coverage. For more information, visit www.cfamm.ca.

About the Canadian Medical Cannabis Council

The Canadian Medical Cannabis Council (CMCC) represents stakeholders who are committed to advancing the highest standards of integrity, safety, quality, access, security and research within Canada’s medical cannabis industry.

Media interview request (click here)

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#DontTaxMedicine Campaign Hits 12,000 Letters

Medical cannabis patient campaign fighting a new tax on medical cannabis and targeting Canada’s Minister of Finance far surpasses outreach goal

WATERLOO – Today the Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana (CFAMM)’s Don’t Tax Medicine campaign hit an impressive milestone with over 12,000 patients sending personal messages to their Members of Parliament.

Canada’s medical cannabis patients are asking their representatives to support the removal of all taxes from medical cannabis and support a tax structure equal to other medications by exempting medical cannabis from GST/HST and dropping the proposed excise tax.

CFAMM founder and medical cannabis patient Jonathan Zaid was impressed with the strength of the grassroots patient movement but not surprised.

“The use of medical cannabis should be recognized in line with all other prescription medications and accordingly exempt from taxation” said Zaid. “Patients have a fundamental right to have access to affordable medicine.”

CFAMM’s campaign came together when patients learned the government was recommending medical and recreational cannabis be taxed at the same rate. Outraged and disappointed, patients (many of whom struggle to afford their treatment today), organized through CFAMM to take their message to Parliament Hill.

“We heard from patients in every province across the country, many angry, some just devastated to learn that their medical treatment would be made even less affordable by the Minister of Finance” said Zaid. “Patients and their family members can’t understand why a sin tax reserved for alcohol and cigarettes is being applied to their medicine”.

CFAMM anticipates the level of grassroots engagement will continue to rise rapidly as word spreads about the government’s ill-advised recommendations. The organization plans to help patients connect personally with their representatives before the holidays, telling their stories and advocating against this discriminatory approach.

CFAMM’s campaign website features a number of different calls to action and encourages patients to send their own original messages to their Members of Parliament. Patients across the country have embraced the campaign hashtag. Their thoughts can be found on Twitter at #DontTaxMedicine

Contact

Media requests can be made here.

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Excise Tax Proposal Response

En français

LEADING PATIENT GROUPS RESPOND TO CANNABIS EXCISE TAX PROPOSAL Organizations seek to have medical cannabis exempt from excise and sales tax – like all other prescription medicines.

November 10, 2017 – Ottawa, ON – Earlier today, the Department of Finance of Canada announced their proposal to apply excise tax to both non-medical and medical cannabis. The Arthritis Society and CFAMM have been advocating for the zero-rated taxation of medical cannabis and earmarked investments for medically-focused research. For the past three years, the two organizations have been leaders in representing medical cannabis patients’ issues including research and access.

While we recognize and welcome continued consultations, we believe the government’s announcement to apply excise tax to medical cannabis unfairly disadvantages patients. Applying any tax to medically prescribed cannabis is inconsistent with the taxation of prescription medicines, which are tax exempt.

In combination with severely limited insurance coverage and the application of sales tax, the affordability of medical cannabis is already a significant issue. 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. The organizations will continue to collaborate with the government to ensure patients have affordable and reasonable access to cannabis for medical purposes.  

Quotes

“The use of medical cannabis should be recognized in line with all other prescription medications and accordingly exempt from taxation. Patients have a fundamental right to have access to affordable medicine.”

   Jonathan Zaid, Founder & Executive Director, CFAMM

“There is an urgent need for investment in medical cannabis research to improve patient care.  Today’s announcement misses the opportunity to devote a portion of the excise tax revenues to medical cannabis research.”

   Janet Yale, CEO, The Arthritis Society

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Health Committee to Hear About Unmet Needs of Medical Cannabis Patients

En français

Research, affordability, and access of medical cannabis are critical issues that must be addressed.

September 15, 2017 – Ottawa – As part of their review of cannabis legalization (Bill C-45), the Standing Committee on Health will today hear testimony on the critical needs and concerns regarding the medical use of cannabis. Representatives of The Arthritis Society and Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana will appear at committee today (10:45am ET – watch here) to express the need for increased research, affordability, and access. They will be available for interviews in English or French after the medical marijuana panel concludes.

While the groups commend the government for recognizing the need to maintain a separate and distinct regulatory approach for medical cannabis, there are still considerations that should be made to address the currently unmet needs of patients.

Research

There remains to be a deficit of properly funded research and Canadian clinical trials into the therapeutic use of medical cannabis. This creates barriers to patient access as many physicians express reluctance to authorize medical cannabis in the absence of robust, peer-reviewed research. We have asked, as part of budget 2018, for the federal government to commit $25 million over five years to support medical cannabis research. This investment is an essential step the government must take to ensure unbiased research in areas including indications, risks, dosage, and forms of administration.

Affordability

Affordability is a major ongoing concern for many patients, as they cannot make use of existing policies and programs that can help address the costs of their medicine. Patients are making treatment choices based on finances, including switching onto less effective medications with severe side effects, including opioids, as they are covered. To improve affordability, as a next step, the government should remove sales tax for medical cannabis and facilitate insurance coverage.

Access

In addition to the continuation of mail order and personal production, pharmacies should have exclusive authority to retail medical cannabis. This model of distribution will help broaden insurance coverage and ensure that patients receive reliable education on the safe and effective use of medical cannabis from trained healthcare professionals with regulatory oversight.

The organizations have collaborated extensively on important issues surrounding medical cannabis over the past two years and continue the call for increased research, access, and affordability. Our joint submission to the committee can be found here.

Quotes

“The use of medical cannabis must be recognized as a legitimate therapeutic option. We are hopeful committee members will listen to the needs of patients and enact measures to ensure there is safe, reliable, and affordable access that is backed by research”

  • Jonathan Zaid, Founder & Executive Director, CFAMM

“The Arthritis Society is doing our part to fill these knowledge gaps, having already committed $720,000 in research funding,” says Janet Yale. “But we can’t do it alone: we need a systemic commitment from the Federal government to prioritize medical cannabis research in order to provide physicians with evidence-based guidelines to reference in advising their patients . Canada has an opportunity not only to catch up, but to become a global leader in this important work.”

  • Janet Yale, CEO, The Arthritis Society

Media requests here.

 About Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana

Founded in 2014, Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana (CFAMM) is a federal non-profit, patient-run organization dedicated to protecting and improving the rights of medical cannabis patients. CFAMM’s goal is to enable patients to obtain fair and safe access to medical cannabis with a special focus on affordability, including private and public insurance coverage. For more information, visit www.cfamm.ca.

About The Arthritis Society

The Arthritis Society has been setting lives in motion for almost 70 years. Dedicated to a vision of living well while creating a future without Arthritis, The Society is Canada’s principal health charity providing education, programs and support to the over 4.6 million Canadians living with Arthritis. Since its founding in 1948, The Society has been the largest non-government funder of Arthritis research in Canada, investing over $195 million in projects that have led to breakthroughs in the diagnosis, treatment and care of people with Arthritis. The Arthritis Society is accredited under Imagine Canada’s Standards Program. For more information about The Arthritis Society and to make a donation, visit www.Arthritis.ca.

Media requests here.

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