Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I was just going to mention that this amendment is the first of a series of two related amendments. This is a topic we have heard about repeatedly at this committee: the taxation or the levying of excise fees on cannabis used for medical purposes.
I know that the committee received many letters about this. I don't know the latest figures, but I believe that over 4,000 Canadians wrote to MPs or to the committee to oppose this new excise tax regime on medical cannabis. Many witnesses mentioned the disastrous consequences this could have on the current users of medical cannabis. It should be said that there is already a medical cannabis regime, and that it is a legal regime. There are many users: according to the testimony we heard at this committee, there are more than 260,000. People criticized this new tax on medication vehemently. This is indeed what it is, strictly speaking. In this case, in this part of the bill, we are talking about imposing an excise duty on the production of cannabis, including cannabis used for medical purposes.
My amendment consists in adding a definition, among the others that the bill adds, to section 2 of the Excise Tax Act, 2001.
In its current form the bill proposes to add a definition of “prescription cannabis drug”. It is quite a limited definition of what would be considered cannabis used for medical purposes.
There are two conditions to meet for a product to be considered a prescription cannabis drug.
First of all, the bill refers to “a drug or mixture of drugs that may, under the Food and Drugs Act or the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, be sold to a consumer, as defined in subsection 123(1) of the Excise Tax Act, without a prescription”. This means that it would be considered a medication. In several places, the bill refers to prescription cannabis that must be prescribed by a physician.
There is another point that is mentioned in a few places in the bill, and I will get back to it later: you have to obtain a DIN, that is to say a drug identification number. It is quite complicated to obtain: you have to be able to confirm or prove the effectiveness of a drug in order to obtain a drug identification number from Health Canada, which is not currently done for any cannabis product used for medical purposes, and this may not happen for several years. It's not impossible; some witnesses told us that they were working on it.
That being said, my amendment would add a new definition. The point is not to remove those that already exist, but to add the following definition of “medical cannabis”:
Cannabis that is intended to be sold for medical purposes under a licence or a permit issued under the Cannabis Act [...]
This would broaden the definition of medical cannabis regarding the imposition of an excise tax on cannabis.
In addition, producers testified before us and stated that it is possible for them to divide their production or to differentiate between cannabis for medical purposes and recreational cannabis. It's extremely important to know that producers are ready to make the distinction in their own production facilities. If that were the case, cannabis destined for the medical market could be exempted from the excise tax since it would be used as a medication. Later I will present an amendment on that topic. Who, around this table, wants to tax medication? I am anxious to hear the position of my colleagues here regarding such a tax.
We are discussing imposing a tax on vice, as this is often known. It is true that there are currently excise taxes on tobacco and alcohol. Now, we propose to extend those excise taxes to cannabis. It's okay to tax recreational cannabis, but it's a whole other matter to tax medical cannabis.
It goes without saying that the committee agrees with the experts and the many statements we heard from the members of civil society who demanded this amendment. Many of the fellow citizens of all my colleagues around this table also wish to be able, in this case, to continue to use tax-free and excise tax-free medication.
I hope all of my colleagues will support me.