Pubdate: Mon, 12 Feb 2018
Source: Ottawa Sun (CN ON)
Copyright: 2018 Canoe Limited Partnership
Author: Laura Kane
Page: 4


VANCOUVER - Diana Koch never wanted to numb her pain and anxiety with
opioids. After seeing family members struggle with addiction, she felt
pharmaceuticals were not an option.

Medical marijuana freed the 36-year-old from her troubling symptoms.
But with recreational weed legalization looming, she worries about her
portion of the market being swallowed up.

"People who are using it for medical purposes, they actually are
suffering from something, from a condition that's handicapping them in
some way in their life," she said, speaking from her home in Toronto.

"The recreational users are not," she added. "There is a

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government plans to legalize
recreational pot later this year, but medical users have been eligible
to access cannabis since 2001. Patients can mail order from a licensed
producer, grow their own or use a designated grower.

The government's proposal to impose an $1-per-gram excise tax on
medical marijuana, equivalent to that of recreational weed, has left
many patients fuming. Koch said the plan will drive patients to
opioids or the black market.

"It basically puts medical cannabis into the same category as alcohol
and cigarettes," she said.

Bill Blair, parliamentary secretary to the justice minister and lead
on the legal pot program, has said the government doesn't want
taxation levels to be an incentive for people to use the medical
system inappropriately.

The excise tax adds "insult to injury," as cannabis patients are
subject to federal sales tax, unlike prescription medicines, said
Jonathan Zaid, founder of Canadians for Fair Access to Medical
Marijuana. Legalization is likely to open up more channels for medical
pot research, as studies have been hobbled by the illegal status of
marijuana, he said. But he's still calling on the government to fund
research, given the limited patentability of weed.

Patients are also pushing for greater insurance coverage. Marijuana
can be claimed as a medical expense on an income tax return, and about
five major unions and employers cover the medicine, including Veterans
Affairs, but it's still not broadly covered, Zaid said.

"The reality is that most patients still do struggle with
affordability," he said.
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