Leading patient advocacy groups disappointed in lack of positive action by federal government on medical cannabis research and taxation

March 23, 2017

Federal budget misses opportunity to fund much-needed research and remove federal sales tax burden on users of medical cannabis 

The Arthritis Society   CFAMM

TORONTO, March 23, 2017 – The Arthritis Society and Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana (CFAMM) are disappointed that the federal government failed to provide much-needed help to the 4.6 million Canadians with arthritis in the new federal budget.

Together with the Canadian AIDS Society, the groups had recommended that the government allocate $25 million over five years for additional much-needed research into medical cannabis, and that it eliminate federal sales tax (known as goods and services tax in some provinces and harmonized sales tax in others) on medical cannabis. Neither action was included in the budget.

Canadians use cannabis for medical purposes for a variety of reasons – including a majority who do so for arthritis pain. Further research is crucial to expand the scientific, clinical and policy data regarding medical cannabis, to help medical professionals guide its appropriate prescribing, and inform patients about the best way to use it and what they can expect.

As well, sales tax is a significant financial burden for Canadians using medical cannabis, given that some patients must spend upwards of $500 a month on their treatment – an amount not usually covered by health insurance plans. Sales tax is not charged on prescription drugs and other medical necessities.

“There was an opportunity here to help Canadians who are already relying on medical cannabis to help manage their health conditions, but who don’t have appropriate knowledge and guidelines for its proper use,” said Janet Yale, President and CEO of The Arthritis Society. “The failure to invest in long-overdue research, or to address the inequitable tax status of medical cannabis, raises questions about the government’s commitment to addressing the needs of Canadians living in pain.”

The groups believe additional research is vital to furthering the appropriate use of medical cannabis. The Arthritis Society has doubled its own investment in this area to $720,000 between 2015 and 2019. Half of that amount is dedicated to a three-year project underway since 2015 to study the impact of medical cannabis on neuropathic pain from nervous system damage in osteoarthritis (OA).  

“It is important to learn if and how cannabis can alleviate neuropathic pain in OA, something traditional pain medications for OA cannot do because they act only on inflammation pain,” said Dr. Jason McDougall of Dalhousie University in Halifax who is conducting the study. “More research is needed in order to get reliable and clinically meaningful information into the hands of Canadian doctors and the people they treat.”

Budget 2017 did include a significant commitment of $9.6 million over five years – and $1 million annually – for public education and surveillance activities related to personal use of cannabis.

“We urge the federal government to use part of this funding towards specific education about the therapeutic aspects of cannabis for patients struggling with chronic pain and other health conditions,” said Jonathan Zaid, Founder and Executive Director of CFAMM. “Patients need affordable access to a regulated supply of medical cannabis – and the government has an opportunity to address those needs by incorporating recommendations from patients and health care providers in the regulatory reforms expected later this spring as part of its plan to legalize cannabis for personal use.”

About The Arthritis Society

The Arthritis Society has been setting lives in motion for over 65 years. Dedicated to a vision of living well while creating a future without arthritis, The Society is Canada's principal health charity providing education, programs and support to the over 4.6 million Canadians living with arthritis. Since its founding in 1948, The Society has been the largest non‐government funder of arthritis research in Canada, investing over $195 million in projects that have led to breakthroughs in the diagnosis, treatment and care of people with arthritis. The Arthritis Society is accredited under Imagine Canada's Standards Program. For more information and to make a donation, visit http://arthritis.ca.   

About Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana

Founded in 2014, Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana (CFAMM) is a federal non-profit, patient-run organization dedicated to protecting and improving the rights of medical cannabis patients. CFAMM’s goal is to enable patients to obtain fair and safe access to medical cannabis with a special focus on affordability, including private and public insurance coverage. For more information, visit www.cfamm.ca.

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For further information contact:

Douglas Emerson 
National Manager, Communications 
The Arthritis Society 
Tel: 416.979.7228 x3348 
Cell: 647.706.0440

Jonathan Zaid
Founder & Executive Director
Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana