Gathering potheads is akin to herding ferrets, so naturally, three med-grass gals and I were two and a half hours late for our appearance in a pot documentary being shot in Kensington. In stop-and-go traffic, we bonded over a few ridiculous stories. The subject was taxes.
"I've been declaring my marijuana for years, hon," the Marijuana Mission's Alison Myrden told me about the $40,000 she's declared so far in medical cannabis expenses. "You don't have to fight for (the tax credit). Tell 'em they're wrong."' Now, this intrigues me. I've been trying for a long time to declare my legal grass meds.
Myrden tells me she totes along her own receipt book in case the person filling her pot prescription doesn't have one. She submitted the tagged Toronto Compassion Centre prescription baggies that list the amount of cannabis and its price.
I call Revenue Canada, eager to get the dope on this, but spokesperson Collette Gentes-Hawn disavows any knowledge of Myrden's exception-to-the-ruleism. "No. (Marijuana) is not dispensed by a pharmacist. It's only deductible if the medication is prescribed by a doctor and dispensed by a pharmacist." Like, uh, who gets pot from a drug store?
This is where it gets weird. The feds won't give financially strapped med grass users a tax break, but that doesn't stop them from collecting a grass sales tax from sellers. Talk about lack of a coherent policy.
The Canada Revenue Agency issued a GST and business number to the Niagara Compassion Society, of which I am the director. The NCS is registered to sell medicinal marijuana. "Medicinal marijuana is no doubt taxable at 7 per cent," says Gentes-Hawn. "As a provider, you have to collect, remit and file a return. A compassion club is like any other business."
Fascinatingly, while the Canada Revenue Agency has opened its arms to taxable compassion clubs, Health Canada continues to live in denial about the booming medical grass industry.
"We license individuals, not companies," says HC spokesperson Catherine Saunders. Under the new rules, a grower can supply only one user, despite the fact that Rev Canada taxes compassion clubs as institutions. The official government-funded Prairie Plant Systems charges GST on its swag.
Over the years, pot proponents have argued that an end to prohibition would divert revenue from organized crime to governments. But surprise, we still have prohibition and Rev Can is nevertheless reaping 7 per cent on medicinal sales. The Minister of Finance's office refuses to comment on the fact they're on the pot take.