The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has announced that the costs of medical marijuana are eligible to be written off as a medical expense. This announcement comes at a time when the Income Tax Act has not yet recognized the cannabis legislation.
In order for marijuana purchases to be considered a medical expense, it must be purchased from a licensed producer. The Canadian Medical Cannabis Industry Association (CMCIA), who have been lobbying for a clarification on this topic, were given the news on August 24 through a letter from the Canada Revenue Agency.
Neil Belot, the executive director of the CMCIA, spoke about the recent announcement,
“This is an important step in acknowledging the legitimacy of the way patients use medical cannabis, to help manage the symptoms of a range of health conditions. We have been working with the CRA and the Department of Finance for several months to clarify this issue, and we’re extremely pleased that cannabis regulated by Health Canada has been recognized as an allowable tax expense. It’s very good news, and will help make the use of cannabis as medicine more accessible and affordable for patients.”
Health Canada’s Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulation requires a prescription to purchase cannabis, which makes it possible to be eligible for deductions. Currently, the Income Tax Act only allows the tax deductions for prescription drugs, not for non-prescription or over-the-counter medicines.
The Government of Canada made the monumental decision, in 2014, to license medical cannabis producers through Health Canada, the government agency responsible for the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) program. The medical marijuana grown by each licensed producer must be tested by Health Canada to ensure quality control and proper potency labeling for patients.
As a result of testing one strain from the Peace Naturals Project Inc. production facility in Ontario, Health Canada issued the first medical marijuana recall of 2015. The strain was packaged as though it contained only 9 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the cannabinoid known to produce the psychoactive effects of marijuana. When tested, however, the strain actually contained closer to 14 percent THC.
This is the second time in less than one year that a strain produced by Peace Naturals has been recalled. Last time the Peace Naturals strain was recalled for testing too high in harmful bacteria. Although no patients have submitted complaints about the strain being too potent or producing adverse effects, Health Canada issued the recall to warn patients that it is stronger than labeled.
Last year, four different recalls on medical marijuana were issued by Health Canada. The reasons strains were added to the recall list included test results revealing high levels of mold, bacteria and potency, as well as for unsatisfactory production practices.
The states in which medical marijuana has been legalized in America do not require such thorough testing of medical marijuana products. There are many proponents and opponents to such testing requirements. and proponents in some of those states are working to adopt stricter testing laws. It will be a while before any testing requirements of this sort are enacted in the United States because cannabis remains federally illegal under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970.
photo credit: FadedFools
This week, Health Canada issued letters to medical marijuana providers warning them to stray away from sexed-up advertising that make their products look and sound appealing. The new set of regulations is set to take effect on January 12 and will threaten to take away licensing for noncompliant marijuana distributors.
Health Canada is Canada’s federal department responsible for overseeing public health concerns, and has recently taken a firm stance on what can and cannot be used in marketing marijuana products. The department reached out to 20 distributors in personalized letters warning of the tightened regulations. The strict guidelines dictate how products are displayed on websites, social media, and even restrict linking to third-party sites and services.
Health Canada says, “The information provided by licensed producers to the public should be limited to basic information for prospective clients such as the brand name, proper or common name of the strain, the price per gram, the cannabinoid content, and the company’s contact information.”
This comes in stark contrast of some Canadian marijuana producers’ lofty goals. We recently took a look at what may be deemed as Canada’s luxury marijuana brand, Hydropothecary, which will likely suffer from these type of restrictions in marketing language. However, dispensary owners are remaining optimistic.
Marc Wayne, CEO of Bedrocan Canada said, “We welcome the clarity and enforcement … and the level playing field.” Ottawa lawyer Trina Fraser says that the words treats, relieves, and prevents may be out-of-bounds when describing medicinal properties of different strains. With little information about how the strains work available to the public, distributors may turn to a one-on-one consultative experience that guides medical patients to the right strain.
Currently there are only 22 licensed medical marijuana providers in Canada, but around 1,000 are in line behind them. Though Health Canada hasn’t yet limited the number of cannabis producers for the country, they will likely continue to tighten regulations in an effort to raise standards for providers.
Photo Credit: Rock & Roll Canada