Vincent Lefaive says medical marijuana
saved his life.
The retired Durham Regional Police Service
sergeant was diagnosed with PTSD in 2016 after 28 years of responding to 911
calls. He used a prescription for medical marijuana to successfully treat the
nightmares, anxiety and other symptoms that came along with the affliction.
But Lefaive is worried about the cost of
the drug, which recently became more expensive with a new tax.
As of October 2018, when the federal
government legalized recreational marijuana, all marijuana producers have been
charged excise tax. Advocates say that tax has been passed along to medical
cannabis patients, who were already paying sales tax for their prescriptions.
As medical marijuana is not covered under
insurance plans, advocates say the taxes have made the drug’s cost prohibitive.
This prompted Lefaive and other patients to
join a campaign — launched by non-profit
Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana — asking the federal government to do away with all taxes on medical
marijuana in its upcoming budget, which is expect to be unveiled this month.
The CFAMM has argued that medical marijuana
should be treated like other prescription drugs, which are not taxed at
Lefaive said the costs are pushing
patients, many of which are seniors, to choose between the drugs they need and
“They are now deciding, I’ve got a medicine
that works for me, and it’s working well, but do I have to cut my grocery
budget? Do I have to cut my heating or hydro budget, or my clothing budget?” he
Advocates say the excise tax and sales
taxes combined have increased the cost of medical cannabis by up to 25 per cent
in some provinces.
Lefaive has already spent more than $1,000 in HST alone since he first started using medical marijuana.
“Even with my financial stability, I am
worried that I cannot afford this,” he said.
Advocates warn that if the cost of medical
marijuana is too prohibitive, it could also push patients to riskier
alternatives that are covered under drug plans, such as opioids.
The federal government has said in the past
that the tax framework is necessary to stop recreational users from abusing the
medicinal prescription system.
A spokesman for Finance Minister Bill
Morneau did not provide comment before deadline.