Medicinal Cannabis: consumers are worried at the dawn of legalization

Photo: Sean Kilpatrick, The canadian Press
The excise tax will be added to the financial burden that parents must endure to provide a treatment to their child.

For Mandy McKnight, the cannabis oil to treat seizures debilitating of his son seems almost miraculous — the nine-year-old, who was exposed to dozens of episodes per day putting his life in danger, can now count on some days to be free of these moments of trauma.


But like many Canadians who have permission from their doctor to use marijuana for a variety of health disorders, Ms. McKnight expressed concern that could arise in the legalization of the substance for recreational use for adults the next summer.


Will there be enough cannabis to meet the needs of the two markets ? How the users of medicinal cannabis, be able to settle the invoice if the substance is subject to the same excise tax for recreational users ?


“I’m worried how they will ensure that its remedy will be in stock each month and will not be completely dominated by recreational users,” said Ms. McKnight, Constance Bay, Ontario, near Ottawa, whose son has seen her condition improve dramatically from taking oral doses of an oil with a high concentration of cannabidiol (CBD), and a lower concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).


“Before you start the cannabis oil, it could have up to 80 seizures per day during the bad days,” explained the mother of Liam, who suffers from Dravet syndrome. “There were times where we called a lot of ambulance, where he had to be transported by helicopter to children’s hospital a few times. “


“[Cannabis oil] has not released Liam from his illness, but this has definitely improved her quality of life 1000 percent, ” she added.


His family provides the oil of a licensed producer, at a cost of $ 60 per bottle, plus tax and delivery costs.


The child’s pediatrician has prescribed 22 bottles per month to treat his seizures, but Ms. McKnight says that she and her husband, Dave, cannot afford half that number.


The question of the taxation


When the excise tax will be imposed on the legalization of marijuana for recreational use, it will add to the financial burden that parents must endure to provide a treatment to their child, since the product is not covered by private insurance or those of the provincial government.


“We are not poor. And we can’t even get close to us to enable the processing of Liam “, she argued.


Canadians for fair access to medical marijuana (CFAMM) are putting pressure on the federal government so that it does not tax the cannabis, arguing that no other product prescribed is not taxed.


“Affordability is the first barrier to the accessibility of medicinal cannabis for the patients, and all type of taxation or increase in prices will affect their health and does not fundamentally at how we treat drugs in a perspective of taxation in Canada,” explained Jonathan Zaid, founder and executive director of the CFAMM.


The federal plan would add a $ 1 tax per gram of cannabis — which represents 10 percent of the final retail price.


The deputy, Bill Blair, who is responsible for the issue of the legalization of marijuana, said that his government was committed to maintaining a working system of medicinal cannabis.


“At the same time, we don’t want that levels of taxation are an incentive for people to use the system inappropriately, then we propose that the levels of taxation, both for the (cannabis) non-medicinal as medicinal, are lined up “, he qualified.


Mr Zaid, who uses medicinal marijuana for about four years to treat headache, daily persistent, points out that the government seems to believe that some people exaggerate their illness for a purchase of marijuana less expensive.


“Although we recognize that the price difference could become a potential concerns, we do not see this as a reason to disadvantage some of the 200,000 Canadians who have access legitimately to cannabis for medical reasons “, he pleaded.


Health Canada predicts that patients using medicinal marijuana to increase to 400 000 by 2024. At a time when the country wants to address the opioid addiction, the CFAMM reiterates that the government should not penalize financially the patients who choose a safer option to treat their pain — and according to the organisation, the pharmacy should dispense the product.


Daphnée Elisma, a native of Montreal, says that cannabis is the only treatment that has helped her to release the pain.


An operation for a brain aneurysm left her with migraines important, and the removal of lymph nodes during surgery for breast cancer has caused pain in his right arm.


“We have tried so many medications, including opioids “, said the woman, 42-year-old, who spends about $ 500 per month for cannabis products.


Unlike recreational users, Ms Elisma said not to use the substance ” for fun and with alcohol “.


“I use it for medical necessity, and it is this that needs to understand the government, to make this distinction clear “, she argued.


Production for medical purposes or recreational ?


The consumers of medicinal cannabis are also worried about the supply, considering that most of the licensed producers have indicated that they intend to grow and distribute marijuana for both patients and recreational users.


“Patient groups have expressed concern that some businesses could perhaps get away from the medical system, and focus only on the consumption system,” said Cam Battley, senior vice-president of the producer Aurora Cannabis, established in Edmonton.


“We are committed to ensuring that our patients come first,” he added, noting that the company was part of the organization of the industry, Cannabis Canada, which also wants to eliminate the tax on medicinal marijuana.


“In our view, it is morally unjust to tax the people who are suffering from chronic diseases and several of which are already in a precarious situation financially. “


Private and public insurance schemes are also pissed off users medicinal.


With the exception of a limited amount of coverage for veterans and patients who have accounts to medical expenses, most insurance policies do not cover the medicinal cannabis. And no province or territory do the covers in its public programs.


“There is less coverage in terms of coverage public, which is extremely unfortunate, considering that most of the patients eligible for provincial coverage are usually people who have low income or have a disability,” observed Mr. Zaid.


“So these are people who really need the most coverage and they are the ones who are least helped this time. “


Mandy McKnight points out that since the little Liam has started taking cannabis oil, he has stopped taking all his medicines against epilepsy, and has not been admitted once to the hospital because of seizures.


“Then I believe that in the end, we save thousands of dollars in the health system. I feel like if we were punished. “