Dear Honorable City Council Members,
I know you that you are discussing a special marijuana sales tax for the City of Denver. In the last A64 working group meeting, the idea of applying it to medical marijuana sales as well as recreational/retail sales was brought up. I would discourage The Council from doing this for several reasons.
No prescription drug card for cannabis. Unlike other medications, cannabis isn’t covered by prescription drug programs so 100% of the cost comes out of the pockets of patients. Most patients with conditions that allow one to be on the registry like MS, cancer, AIDS and even chronic pain, are already at a financial disadvantage. This tax will make more expensive and more difficult for patients to afford the medication they need.
Prescription drugs are not subject to sales tax in Colorado. Although technically cannabis is not “prescribed”, the process for legally obtaining it is even more onerous and expensive. Patients already have additional expenses like a special visit to the doctor and registry fees which are not covered by insurance. Medical marijuana patients and the industry didn’t object to paying standard sales tax because we wanted acceptance, figuring that cities would be more open to allowing medical marijuana if there was a financial incentive. However, piling on another special tax simply because it’s marijuana is unreasonable. Calling it a “sin tax” and applying it to medical marijuana is offensive to thousands of patients in Denver and across the state.
Patients are patients. There seems to be a prevailing attitude that many (if not most) of the people on the medical marijuana registry don’t really need it. Some people think that marijuana should be reserved for those who are on their deathbeds, have tried everything else and have run out of options. Who would we deny someone dying of cancer a medication that might give them comfort in their final days? But those who are not at that point, who might actually feel better, must be faking it and really only want marijuana to get high. We do not apply these same standards to patients using other medications. Are we as concerned about the 19-year-old who gets a prescription for a potentially lethal opiate when he gets his wisdom teeth removed? Perhaps we should be.
This will hurt the chances of passing the tax. Amendment 64 specifically states that medical marijuana is separate and distinct from recreational marijuana. The voters recognize that difference as well. The general public is sympathetic to cannabis patients, and applying this special city sales tax to medical could be enough to push voters to vote against it. And because of the way A64 is written, this tax could be open for a constitutional challenge. Are you willing to risk that?
Although I think that trying to pass an additional special tax this November is a mistake and should wait until 2014, it would be an even bigger mistake to apply that tax to medical marijuana sales. For patients across Colorado, I hope that you will reconsider and eliminate this as an option in your discussions.
M. Teri Robnett
Cannabis Patients Action Network