Patient Groups Unite to Oppose New Government Tax on Medicine

12 national not-for-profits representing AIDS, spondylitis, arthritis, hospice, cardiac, crohn’s and colitis, gastrointestinal, Huntington’s, skin cancer and spondylitis patients among others, as well as pharmacists, united to oppose the Finance Minister’s plan to tax medical cannabis.

OTTAWA – Today, united in fierce opposition to the federal Finance Minister’s misguided proposal to apply a sin tax to medical cannabis, 12 national health-focused non-profits and charities including the Canadian AIDS Society, the Arthritis Society, and Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana jointly submitted a response to the government’s consultation process repudiating its recommendations on behalf of their members.

In summary their submission stated: “the government’s proposal to extend the excise duty framework to cannabis for medical purposes places an inappropriate, unfair burden on patients”. It urged the government to “reconsider this plan as it moves forward with its proposed cannabis taxation regime (including both excise and sales taxes)”.

It went on to point to the financial hardships faced by medical cannabis patients, some of whom pay upwards of $500 per month for their or their family member’s medicine. The group ultimately recommended that cannabis for medical purposes be zero-rated and exempt from excise and sales taxes. While the groups were shocked by the government’s initial recommendation, they remain hopeful that the Minister of Finance will listen to patients.

Grassroots support for the advocacy efforts of these organizations has manifested itself on CFAMM’s campaign website where over 14,000 patients have spoken up, sending messages to their Members of Parliament. Patients across the country have embraced the campaign hashtag. Their thoughts can be found on Twitter at #DontTaxMedicine

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.

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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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Skinner Appeal Set for October 2nd

HALIFAX, Sept. 28, 2017 – On Monday October 2, 2017 at 10am, The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal is scheduled to hold a hearing in Skinner, a case related to discrimination stemming from denial of medical cannabis benefits coverage where it was found to be medically necessary and effective for Gordon “Wayne” Skinner.

 Media interviews will be available at the courthouse (1815 Upper Water Street, Halifax, NS) following the hearing. The legal counsel for Mr. Skinner, Hugh Scher, along with a representative of Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana (CFAMM), a non-profit organization supporting the case, will be present.

Background
In a January 30, 2017 landmark ruling, the Nova Scotia Human Rights Tribunal concluded that Mr. Skinner’s union, the Board of Trustees of the Canadian Elevator Industry Welfare Trust Fund, committed discrimination by denying benefits coverage for Mr. Skinner’s prescribed medical cannabis. The Welfare Trust Fund appealed the case to the NS Court of Appeal. The case is set to be heard October 2, 2017 by the Court of Appeal.

When conventional prescription medications failed to provide effective relief for his chronic pain, Mr. Skinner’s physician prescribed medical cannabis, which offered superior symptom management compared to previous treatment regimens and was found to be medically necessary and effective for Mr. Skinner. The Human Rights Tribunal ruling found that Mr. Skinner “was discriminated against when he was denied coverage for medical marijuana by the trustees responsible for making decisions under his benefits plan.” The Tribunal found that the treatment was medically necessary and consistent with the mandate of the plan to provide benefits to employees like Mr. Skinner.

Mr. Skinner is supported in his appeal by non-profit organization CFAMM and by Aurora Cannabis Inc., and in the court by The National ME/FM Network, who have been granted intervenor standing and will be making submissions in support of people with chronic pain.

“Medical cannabis has successfully reduced my pain caused by an on-the-job accident. It is prescribed by my doctor and is a safer and more effective treatment than opioids,” said Mr. Skinner. “As the Human Rights Tribunal originally ruled, medical cannabis is medically necessary and effective for my treatment, and should be covered under the plan like other medications.”

Jonathan Zaid, Executive Director of CFAMM, stated, “We hope that The Court of Appeal will carefully consider the fact that medical cannabis is medically necessary and effective for Mr. Skinner and others. Imposition of a blanket prohibition on coverage by employers and insurers adversely effects people with chronic pain who can’t tolerate other treatments. The Tribunal was correct to find that the plan’s actions were discriminatory.”

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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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Impaired Driving: Preliminary Review

WATERLOO, ON, JUNE 27, 2017 – Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana (CFAMM), a national non-profit organization, released a first-of-its-kind preliminary research review on medical cannabis impaired driving – one of the major public safety concerns stemming from the legalization of non-medical cannabis.

The review situates the use of cannabis for medical purposes among research related to policy, prevalence, and risk of cannabis/THC impaired driving. The 200,000 legally authorized Canadians who are prescribed medical cannabis have important and distinct characteristics including dosing, strains, tolerance, methods of administration, and education received by their prescribing physicians. These factors, explored in the review, set medical cannabis patients apart from non-medical consumers and demonstrate this to be a key area left unexplored in previous impaired driving literature.

This preliminary review offers insight into how cannabis used for medical purposes relates to impaired driving, including the following topics:

DEFINING ‘IMPAIRMENT’

While CFAMM is fully against impaired driving and supports responsible driving legislation, the term “impairment” is widely used but is not always clearly defined. When speaking of impairment, crucial to this dialogue is speaking to actual impairment of cognitive, psychomotor, and other functions necessary to safely drive – not simply a measure of previous use such as the presence of THC in blood. Unlike blood alcohol concentration, which is scientifically linked to levels of impairment, matching levels of impairment to levels of THC in one’s system is still widely debated and has not been studied related to medical cannabis use.

RISK OF MEDICAL CANNABIS IMPAIRED DRIVING

Although many studies have explored the risk of recreational or occasional use of cannabis related to driving impairment, few have studied the risk related to responsible medical use of cannabis. For most patients, the goal of medical cannabis use is not to experience its psychoactive effects, but rather to treat or manage symptoms of an illness using the smallest effective dose. Although it’s a limited example, a past study on the medical use of cannabis (Sativex) for multiple sclerosis identified better driving safety measures after the introduction of cannabis in patients’ treatment regimens, suggesting a need for further research on medical users. It is also important to note that U.S. states have recorded an 8-11% drop in overall traffic fatalities one year following the introduction of medical cannabis legislation.

DISTINCTIVE NATURE OF MEDICAL CANNABIS USE

Many medically authorized Canadians use cannabis daily or near daily to manage symptoms associated with their illness and are expected to follow advice from health care providers. This includes safe-use guidelines, such as waiting 4+ hours after consumption before driving, to help eliminate risk of potential impairment. The metabolism and effects of THC are highly variable from person-to-person and THC can remain detectable within a regular user’s blood for days after last consumption. The government’s proposal, which would set a per se cut-off of 2ng/ml THC at the lower end, means even when patients are not impaired, they would have to stop using their medicine for 3-7+ days before driving.

QUOTE

“Although driving is not a right but a privilege, patients who use cannabis responsibly and are not impaired should still be able to drive without risk or fear of being charged. It is necessary for the government to incentivize further research and include considerations for patients using cannabis. While a strict precautionary approach may be appropriate in light of limited evidence, policymakers have a responsibility to both safeguard road safety and balance the rights of medical cannabis patients to ensure they are not unfairly criminalized by drugged driving laws that do not target impairment.”

-Jonathan Zaid, Lead Author and Executive Director, CFAMM

For interview requests, contact us here. Stay tuned for the full, bilingual report and policy recommendations in the coming months.

 

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