Medical marijuana is the only doctor prescribed medication in Canada that patients have to pay taxes on.
In Canada patients don't usually have to pay taxes on the prescription medications. That is unless your prescription is cannabis. In those cases you're paying the same tax rates as anyone buying the substance from the recreational market. For some patients, like Rebecca Katz of Saskatoon, those extra fees make purchasing their medication a serious financial burden.
"Cannabis has been a medicine for thousands of years. Why isn't it treated the same? A lot of people need it to live, need it to function," Katz told CTV News. "And they're paying an arm and a leg and they're not getting any help from the government."
Katz says her surgeon put her on cannabis after she cycled through a host of conventional opioid medications. She's now been using medical marijuana form the past eight years.
"It really saved my life," she said. "It made me functional again."
In Katz's home province of Saskatchewan, patients are charged a nearly 18 percent tax on top of the price of their medication, a combination of provincial and federal fees. The Saskatchewan Ministry of Finance, however, says the issue is out of their hands, as federal regulations require them to tax both medical and recreational cannabis products equally.
And as an economics professor from the University of Regina suggests, taxing marijuana products in any fashion may be the wrong move altogether.
"At least two thirds of cannabis purchased in Canada is purchased from the illicit market, and its coming in at a lower price" professor Jason Childs explained. "By inflating the price in the legal market via taxation you make it harder for the legal market to displace the illicit market."
However the removal of all marijuana taxes seems unlikely given the revenues governments are set to make off of the portion of the market they do control. So what will need to be done to remove taxes from medicinal products? Evan Loster, business process analyst and national clinic coordinator at National Access Cannabis, suggests "it may take a patient challenging legislation at the Supreme Court of Canada to inspire that change."
In the mean time, patients will continue to have to pay high taxes on a medication that is not regularly covered by health insurance plans, while simultaneously facing down the stigmas associated with their much need medication.