GRASS TAX GRAB
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 p
er cent on medicinal
sales. The Minister of Finance's office refuses to comment on the fact
they're on the pot take.