Alberta cannabis producer calls proposed taxation of medical marijuana a ‘major mistake’

Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie said he's been told by the province that a cannabis shop will open in the city next summer. File / Global News

An Alberta-based cannabis producer wants to sit down with federal lawmakers to talk changes to the proposed tax on legal pot, unhappy with the idea of taxing medical marijuana.

On Friday, the Trudeau government revealed its draft plan to add a $1 per gram, or 10 per cent tax on total marijuana purchases, whichever is higher. That’s on top of any applied sales taxes.

READ MORE: Canadians could pay at least $1 per gram in weed tax, plus GST: feds

Cam Batley, executive vice-president of Aurora Cannabis, said on the one hand, it’s good that Ottawa is trying to keep taxes low on recreational marijuana.

“Because we have to ensure that the price of consumer cannabis — that is legal, regulated, consumer cannabis — is competitive with the black market,” Batley said.

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However, he also believes the federal government is “making a major mistake.”

“One of the proposals is to tax medical cannabis — that’s cannabis for patients with a prescription from their physicians. They want to tax that cannabis at the same rate as consumer cannabis.”

Batley called the decision “outrageous and wrong.”

“Many people who use medical cannabis have chronic illnesses, and are already in a low-income situation. What they do not need is additional cost-burden.

“And in fact, we’ve been advocating for some time that the GST and HST be taken off medical cannabis because currently, it’s the only prescription medicine for which taxes apply,” Batley said. “So to have the federal government now proposing to add additional taxes to medical cannabis is really going to hurt a lot of people.”

Watch below: Alberta Finance Minister Joe Ceci responds to the proposed 50/50 tax revenue split on marijuana between provincial and federal governments.

Click to play video: 'Alberta finance minister calls marijuana taxation ‘completely unacceptable’' Alberta finance minister calls marijuana taxation ‘completely unacceptable’
Alberta finance minister calls marijuana taxation ‘completely unacceptable’ – Nov 10, 2017

Critics have brought up the concern over recreational users getting bogus prescriptions to dodge taxes. But Batley insisted it wasn’t a problem.

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“These are people who are using medical cannabis for the management of the symptoms of serious chronic health conditions,” he said.

Ottawa is seeking public feedback on the proposed tax scheme until Dec. 7, and Batley said Aurora will be chiming in.

“It’s a bad decision. We hope they will listen to us. We want to have a conversation about changing that policy.”

While right now, Aurora Cannabis is a medical marijuana distributor, it has plans to enter the recreational market once cannabis is legalized in July.

READ MORE: Medical pot grower Aurora Cannabis expands to Edmonton airport

A new production facility dubbed “Aurora Sky” is currently under construction outside Edmonton. Once complete, it will be the largest cannabis production facility in the world.

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