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.”

MEDIA REQUESTS – CLICK HERE.

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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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Les besoins des patients doivent avoir la priorité dans la légalisation du cannabis au Québec

English version here

MONTRÉAL, le 20 juin 2017 /CNW/ – Santé Cannabis, le centre d’excellence du cannabis thérapeutique au Québec, et Canadiens pour l’accès équitable à la marijuana médicale (CAEMM), un organisme national à but non lucratif, sont heureux de participer aujourd’hui au forum d’experts sur la légalisation du cannabis. Annoncé par la ministre déléguée à la Santé publique, Lucie Charleboix, ce forum constitue la première étape d’un processus de consultation visant à préparer la réglementation liée à la légalisation du cannabis au Québec.

Des représentants de Santé Cannabis et de CAEMM pourront répondre aux questions des médias durant le forum. Les deux organismes demandent à ce qu’on reconnaisse les besoins des patients qui consomment du cannabis à des fins médicales, comme l’amélioration de l’accessibilité et de l’abordabilité du produit au moyen de circuits de distribution variés et de l’élimination des taxes de vente. Ils demandent aussi un engagement à financer la recherche sur le cannabis thérapeutique. « Les patients utilisent du cannabis en raison de besoins médicaux. Il faut qu’il soit facile et sécuritaire pour eux d’y accéder au Québec, et il faut également lutter contre la stigmatisation », a déclaré Daphnée Elisma, patiente utilisant du cannabis thérapeutique et représentante du Québec pour CAEMM.

« Il faut que les patients soient au coeur des travaux visant à harmoniser les réseaux de production de cannabis à des fins médicales et non médicales. Il faut aussi que les revenus de la vente légalisée du cannabis soient utilisés pour informer la population et financer la recherche sur les propriétés thérapeutiques du cannabis et son incidence sur la santé publique », a déclaré Erin Prosk, directrice de Santé Cannabis. « Nous saluons l’initiative de la ministre pour avoir lancé cette consultation et donné l’occasion aux experts d’apporter leur contribution dans le cadre de ce forum. »

Santé Cannabis

Santé Cannabis est la première clinique et le premier centre de ressources spécialisé en cannabis à usage thérapeutique. Les médecins de Santé Cannabis évaluent la pertinence d’utiliser le cannabis à des fins médicales sur recommandation d’un autre médecin et ont évalué plus de 3 000 patients depuis l’ouverture de l’organisme en novembre 2014. Santé Cannabis est le premier centre de recrutement pour le Registre Cannabis Québec.

Au sujet de Canadiens pour l’accès équitable à la marijuana médicale

Fondé en 2014, Canadiens pour l’accès équitable à la marijuana médicale (CAEMM)/Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana (CFAMM) est un organisme fédéral à but non lucratif, dirigé par des patients, qui se dévoue à la protection et à l’amélioration des droits des patients qui consomment du cannabis à des fins médicales. CAEMM/CFAMM vise à faire en sorte que les patients aient un accès équitable et sûr au cannabis médical, en mettant particulièrement l’accent sur son abordabilité, notamment dans le cadre des régimes d’assurance privés et publics. Pour obtenir de plus amples renseignements à ce sujet, visitez le site www.cfamm.ca.

SOURCE Canadiens pour l’accès équitable à la marijuana médicale (CAEMM)

Renseignements : Erin Prosk, Santé Cannabis, erin@santecannabis.ca; Daphnée Elisma, CAEMM/CFAMM, delisma@cfamm.ca, 514 213-5378

LIENS CONNEXES
www.cfamm.ca

Quebec’s Cannabis Legislation Must Put Patients First

MONTREAL, June 20, 2017 /CNW/ – Santé Cannabis, Quebec’s centre of excellence in medical cannabis, and Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana (CFAMM) a national non-profit organization, are pleased to be participating in today’s cannabis legalization Expert Forum. The Expert Forum was announced by Public Health Minister Lucie Charlebois as the first step in a consultation process to develop regulations for legalized cannabis in the province of Quebec.

Representatives from both organizations will be available for media interviews at the forum. The organizations are calling for recognition of medical cannabis patients’ needs including broadened access through various distribution channels, affordability measures including the elimination of sales tax, and committed funding for medical cannabis research. Daphnée Elisma, a medical cannabis patient and Québec representative of CAEMM/CFAMM, states “patients utilize cannabis out of medical necessity – access in Quebec must be reliable, affordable, and destigmatized.”

”Efforts to harmonize medical and non-medical supply of cannabis must put patients first and revenues from the sale of legal cannabis must support education and research about its medical utility and public health impacts,” said Erin Prosk, Director of Santé Cannabis.  “We applaud the minister for undertaking this consultation process and for the opportunity to contribute our expertise to the Expert Forum.”

About Santé Cannabis

Santé Cannabis is the leading medical cannabis clinic and resource centre.  Physicians at Santé Cannabis provide medical cannabis consultations on a referral-basis and have assessed 3000 patients since opening in November 2014.  Santé Cannabis is the leading recruitment centre for the Quebec Cannabis Registry.

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.

SOURCE Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana (CFAMM)

For further information: Erin Prosk, Santé Cannabis, erin@santecannabis.ca; Daphnée Elisma, CAEMM/CFAMM, delisma@cfamm.ca, (514) 213-5378

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NS Human Rights Coverage Case (Skinner) Announcement

Aurora Joins CFAMM in Backing Human Rights Case for Medical Cannabis Insurance Coverage

En français
TORONTO, May 23, 2017 /CNW/ – Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana (CFAMM) today welcomed a commitment of financial and other resources from licensed producer Aurora Cannabis Inc. in support of Gordon “Wayne” Skinner’s defense in a potentially precedent-setting medical cannabis insurance coverage case.

In a January 30, 2017 landmark ruling, the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission concluded that the Board of Trustees of the Canadian Elevator Industry Welfare Trust Fund committed discrimination by denying coverage for the medical cannabis Mr. Skinner uses to manage chronic pain and other conditions resulting from a work-related injury that left him permanently impaired.

Following the Commission’s decision, the Board of Trustees filed an appeal against Mr. Skinner and the Commission in the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal. The appeal has been set for October 2, 2017.

CFAMM, a non-profit patient advocacy organization, has been providing strategic support to Mr. Skinner, and the commitment of resources from Aurora will ensure that Mr. Skinner has the ability to vigorously defend his case, including representation by a leading disability lawyer, Hugh Scher of Scher Law Professional Corporation in Toronto.

When conventional prescription medications failed to provide sufficient relief for his conditions, Mr. Skinner’s physician prescribed medical cannabis, which offered superior symptom management compared to previous treatment regimens. In the Human Rights Commission ruling, Commission Board of Inquiry Chair Benjamin Perryman stated that he found Mr. Skinner “was discriminated against when he was denied coverage for medical marijuana by the trustees responsible for making decisions under his benefits plan.”

“I am very grateful for Aurora’s partnership in supporting Wayne Skinner and CFAMM’s work on behalf of other patients across Canada who are defending their rights and advocating for fair treatment,” said Jonathan Zaid, Founder and Executive Director of CFAMM. “There is now ample evidence that patients have had success managing the symptoms of a wide range of health conditions through the use of medical cannabis prescribed by their doctors. Medical cannabis should be eligible for insurance coverage in the same way as other prescribed medications.”

“This is the right thing to do, and we’re going to back CFAMM and Wayne Skinner all the way,” said Terry Booth, CEO of Aurora. “It is a matter of fundamental fairness and equality that these patients should be able to rely on their benefits plans to support prescribed medical treatment.”

“The lack of coverage for medical cannabis, the only treatment that has worked for me, has caused extreme hardship on my family and has diminished my health,” said Wayne Skinner. “The Trust Fund is charged with representing me and supporting my medical needs, yet they continue to unreasonably prolong this difficult situation. It makes no sense to me that, in managing my chronic pain for example, the Trust Fund would reimburse me for prescription opioid drugs, with their associated side effects and risk of dependence, but they continue to deny me coverage for medical cannabis.”

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 Aurora

Aurora’s wholly-owned subsidiary, Aurora Cannabis Enterprises Inc., is a licensed producer of medical cannabis pursuant to Health Canada’s Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations(“ACMPR”). The Company operates a 55,200 square foot, state-of-the-art production facility in Mountain View County, Alberta, and is currently constructing a second 800,000 square foot production facility, known as “Aurora Sky”, at the Edmonton International Airport, and has acquired, and is undertaking completion of, a third 40,000 square foot production facility in Pointe Claire, Quebec, near Montreal. In addition, the company is the cornerstone investor with a 19.9% stake in Cann Group Limited, the first Australian company licensed to conduct research on and cultivate medical cannabis. Aurora’s common shares trade on the TSX-V under the symbol “ACB”.

SOURCE Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana (CFAMM)

For further information:

Jonathan Zaid, Founder and Executive Director, Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana, 416-837-5972, jzaid@cfamm.ca, www.cfamm.ca; Cam Battley, Executive Vice President, Aurora Cannabis Inc., 905-864-5525, cam@auroramj.com, www.auroramj.com

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