Justin Trudeau's cannabis climb down no toke
Dried and processed medical marijuana "buds," trimmed and ready for use. Our weed columnist, Sarah Hanlon, says Justin Trudeau told a big whopper about not taxing medical reef.
SARAH HANLON/ 24 HOURS
That fury you hear? The betrayal medical cannabis patients and activists feel after the federal government went back on yet another promise surrounding legal marijuana.
Last Friday, the Department of Finance announced a federal tax proposal that could see an excise charge of $1/gram or 10% (whichever is higher) on both recreational and medical cannabis. According to Ottawa, the revenues will be shared equally between the feds, provinces and territories.
So what are they smoking? The shady government is apparently 'concerned'users will lie to their doctors, pretend to be sick and navigate the complex workings of the medical cannabis system in order to save the extra 10% tax that would be reserved for recreational pot.
Liberal MP, parliamentary secretary to the minister of justice and lead on the legal pot program Bill Blair defended the proposal, saying, "We do not want the taxation levels to be an incentive for people to utilize that system inappropriately."
It's hard to believe anything a Liberal says on the subject, to be honest. Including the selfie-in-chief.
During a VICE-sponsored town hall last spring, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised Canadians that the medical system wasn't going to change.
Trudeau told activist and artist Ian Campeau - who opened up about his wife's treatments with breast cancer - with his increasingly arrogant and so-called passion: "Listen, I absolutely appreciate what you are saying and I have heard stories like that all across the country, as has Bill [Blair]. That's why the current medical marijuana regime will stay in place exactly as is. So how your wife is accessing her medical marijuana right now will continue beyond the legalization framework that we are bringing in for recreational. We are not going to be removing or reducing or limiting in any way the medical marijuana field."
Adding a 10% levy to an already overpriced medication could not only change the medical marijuana program - it could also destroy it.
Many people who use cannabis treatments already struggle to afford their medication.
Unlike other prescriptions, medical cannabis is already burdened with GST/HST and is almost never covered by health insurance.
Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana (CFAMM), who have been lobbying the government to remove the current sales taxes already applied to medical cannabis, are now ramping up their efforts.
It believes that both taxes unfairly disadvantage patients by burdening them with pressure to make treatment choices based on finances rather than their health.
CFAMM is asking Canadians to make their voices heard through their #DontTaxMedicine letter writing, video and selfie campaign - the idea being to make the pleas as personal as possible.
Licensed Producers of medical cannabis are also on a mission to shut down this proposed tax.
Cam Battley, executive vice-president of Aurora Cannabis, took to Twitter to rally the community: "I suspect the reaction to this will be strong, and will unite all of us like never before. Rally time."
Tilray, another LP, also warned in a statement: "Taxing medical and recreational cannabis at the same rate will erode the medical cannabis system, negatively impacting Canadian patients."
As a marijuana activist, I haven't seen such consistent pushback regarding any cannabis policy, albeit a proposal, like this - which means Trudeau and Blair are in for a fight.
Visit donttaxmedicine.ca to have your voice heard in an easy and quick way before the deadline on Dec. 7.
And soon, the sound you'll hear is the marijuana black market rejoicing when consumers return to them after this malfunction occurs.
Want more from Sarah Hanlon? Follow her on Twitter @flatshanlon