Proposed Medical Marijuana Tax Angers Patients

TORONTO — The federal government’s proposed plan to impose an excise tax on medical marijuana as well as recreational cannabis has left patient advocate groups and Canadian licensed cannabis producers fuming.

Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana (CFAMM) and the Arthritis Society said in a joint statement Friday medical pot should be treated the same way as most other prescription medications and applying the excise tax to medical cannabis unfairly disadvantages patients.

“The use of medical cannabis should be recognized in line with all other prescription medications and accordingly exempt from taxation,” said Jonathan Zaid, the founder and executive director of CFAMM. “Patients have a fundamental right to have access to affordable medicine.”

Ottawa unveiled its federal tax proposal on Friday in preparation for the July 2018 deadline for the legalization of recreational marijuana in Canada, which will be up for public consultation until Dec. 7.

This plan would add an excise tax of $1 per gram of marijuana or 10 per cent of the final retail price, whichever is higher. The revenues will be split equally between Ottawa and the provinces and territories.

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Bill Blair, parliamentary secretary to the minister of justice and the Liberal lead on the legal pot program, also said the government’s task force report recommended the tax regime on medical and recreational marijuana be the same.

“Our government remains committed to maintaining a functional medical marijuana system and at the same time, we do not want the taxation levels to be an incentive for people to utilize that system inappropriately and so we propose that the taxation levels for both non-medical and medical will be aligned,” Blair said.

Bill Blair speaks during a news conference in Ottawa on April 13, 2017.

However, Cam Battley, executive vice-president of licensed producer Aurora Cannabis Inc. (TSX:ACB), said sick people do not need the additional cost burden and applying the tax to medical marijuana is “outrageous” and “wrong.”

He added that patient advocates have been calling on governments for the removal of existing sales tax on medical cannabis to put it in line with other pharmaceuticals, such as opioids.

“This needs to be nipped in the bud,” Battley said. “What the federal government is doing with respect to cannabis on a broad basis is very positive, very sound public sound public policy. This is not.”

Battley adds that the government’s proposal presupposes that people will fake an illness in order to access medical cannabis.

“No Canadian physician who values his or her license is ever going to write a prescription for medical cannabis for somebody that they know is faking or seeking consumer cannabis on a discount. That’s a knock on the professionalism of the physicians in Canada.”

But Rosalie Wyonch, a policy analyst at the C.D. Howe Institute who researches pot markets and tax policies, said while other jurisdictions like Colorado and Washington decided to treat medical marijuana like other medicines, Blair has a valid point about creating an incentive for people to see out the cheaper product. She said at the end of the day that’s a policy decision for the government to make.

But Canadian licensed cannabis producer MedReleaf echoed Aurora’s call for elimination of taxes on pot for medicinal users.

“Cannabis is a legitimate medicine,” said Darren Karasiuk, MedReleaf’s vice president of strategy. “And, again, should be treated as such, which is to say like most prescription products, which is tax exempt. We want to see our patients certainly stick with the medical system… They are going to much more likely adhere to physician direction on what products to use. And it’s going to, we think, lead to better health outcomes.”

Licensed producer Tilray says it supports Ottawa’s tax plan for recreational marijuana, but it “falls short” on medical cannabis. “Taxing medical and recreational cannabis at the same rate will erode the medical cannabis system, negatively impacting Canadian patients,” said its chief executive Brendan Kennedy, in a statement.

With files from Mia Rabson

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Apple’s iPhone X vs. Google’s Pixel 2 XL

Now that the new 2017 flagship smartphones from both Google and Apple are available and in the hands of consumers, we thought we’d compare Apple’s iPhone X with the Google Pixel 2 XL to see how these two devices measure up.

In the video below, we took a look at specific features of both phones, including design, hardware, camera and display, along with each device’s unique features like Face ID and Active Edge. We also compared what it’s like using each phone on a day to day basis to give an overall picture of the similarities and differences between each of the devices.

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Both the Google Pixel 2 XL and the iPhone X have similar price points ($849 for the former and $999 for the latter), and similar display sizes at 5.8 inches for the iPhone X and 6 inches for the Pixel 2 XL.

Inside, the iPhone X has a custom Apple-designed A11 processor, while the Pixel 2 XL features a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chip. In raw benchmarks, the iPhone X outperforms the Pixel 2 XL, but the differences in processor and GPU speed aren’t as noticeable in real world usage. When it comes to intensive tasks, though, the iPhone X will handily outperform the Pixel 2 XL.

Both devices feature OLED displays, but the iPhone X’s display is leagues better than the OLED display of the Pixel 2 XL. The Pixel 2 XL is plagued by serious display issues that have been making headlines for the last couple of weeks, including burn-in and bizarre color variations.

iPhone X and Pixel 2 XL both have impressive cameras and produce some amazing photos, but the Pixel 2 XL does a lot of what the iPhone X can do with just a single camera. Apple’s iPhone X is equipped with dual 12-megapixel rear cameras, one with an f/1.8 wide-angle lens and the second with an f/2.4 telephoto lens, while the Pixel 2 XL is sporting just a single f/1.8 12-megapixel camera.

As for front-facing cameras, the Pixel 2 XL has an f/2.4 8-megapixel camera while the iPhone X is sporting an f/2.2 7-megapixel camera that also happens to be equipped with an additional infrared camera, sensor, and dot projector to enable Face ID, one of the flagship iPhone X features that gives the iPhone X an edge over the Pixel 2 XL.

Face ID has proven to be largely fast and accurate, making it an improvement over fingerprint sensing technology. Pixel 2 XL continues to offer a fingerprint sensor, albeit a fast and accurate one. Active Edge, the Pixel 2 XL’s distinguishing feature, lets users squeeze the sides of the device to quickly activate Google Assistant. Speaking of Google Assistant, that’s another feature where the Pixel 2 XL has an edge over the iPhone X — many believe Google Assistant is more useful than Siri.

Pixel 2 XL has a larger battery and longer battery life than the iPhone X, but it doesn’t offer the same Qi wireless charging functionality that’s available in the iPhone X. It charges over USB-C, though, while the iPhone X continues to use a proprietary Lightning port for non-wireless charging purposes. Neither device has a headphone jack, as Google followed in Apple’s footsteps and opted to rely solely on wireless technology.

So which of these devices is better? It’s impossible to say. Both the iPhone X and the Google Pixel 2 XL are entirely different platforms, and each one is the best in its respective category. There are some things the Google Pixel 2 XL does better than the iPhone X, and some things the iPhone X does better than the Google Pixel 2 XL. Choosing one really comes down to the ecosystem you prefer — iOS or Android.

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