Medical marijuana users are afraid that the federal Liberals’ plan to legalize marijuana could collapse the current health-based system and result in taxes and drug limits for them that patients taking other medications don’t face.
Both patients and doctors in the medical marijuana community want the government to look at medicinal and recreational marijuana as separate products and industries. They’re worried that the perception that all marijuana users are just smoking for fun will influence new laws.
“The concern is that recreational legalization doesn’t actually meet the needs of patients. There still needs to be something else,” said Jamie Shaw, spokesperson for B.C. Compassion Club Society.
Medicinal marijuana users in Washington have already experienced that.
When Washington legalized recreational marijuana, it limited how much anyone, patient or otherwise, could possess to one ounce. Limits were also placed on where people could smoke marijuana and a sales tax was imposed.
“The problem in Washington State is they had a pretty good medical system. Then with legalization the government took the position of, ‘Oh, if it’s legal, we don’t need to have a medical. And with the limits that exist on the legal, it screwed up the entire medical,” said John Conroy, a lawyer in a number of Vancouver marijuana legalization cases.
Some Vancouverites worry that if they are left out of Canada’s legalization conversation, the same will happen here as in Washington.
“We’re doing as much as we can to make sure there is open conversation, or at least that we’re heard by the federal government,” said Emerald Asuncion from the B.C. Compassion Club Society in Vancouver.
Prescription medication is exempt from both B.C. provincial and federal sales tax. Since medical marijuana users require a doctor’s recommendation, similar to a prescription, patients believe they should not be taxed. Doctors prescribe certain types of marijuana and dosages on a case-by-case basis. Regulations placed on recreational use may conflict with what a doctor orders.
“I think and hope that there will always be a separate section in the law or dispensary that will be specifically for medicinal purposes,” said Dr. Perry Solomon, chairman of HelloMD, a medical marijuana evaluation firm.
The City of Vancouver has already placed restrictions on medical marijuana dispensaries by banning sale of edible marijuana. This can create problems for patients who cannot smoke marijuana, including children and the elderly, according to Solomon.
Vancouver’s bylaws limiting where dispensaries are located are also causing medical dispensaries to close, limiting patients access.