Editorial: Tax on medical pot no joke for users

When a club that sells medical marijuana completely spaces out on paying $150,000 in income taxes, stoner jokes aren’t far behind.

When a club that sells medical marijuana completely spaces out on paying $150,000 in income taxes, stoner jokes aren’t far behind.

But for the thousands of people who use marijuana to ease chronic pain from illness and side effects of legal medication, the possibility of losing ready access to medical pot doesn’t bring out the giggles.

Leon “Ted” Smith and his Victoria-based Cannabis Buyers’ Club of Canada has sold marijuana products for 16 years to thousands of people who can prove they have certain permanent diseases or chronic ailment.

Smith admits in the media and on his website that he’s avoided paying taxes to the Canada Revenue Agency for years and wrote: “(I) assumed I would end up in jail for it.”

This kind of sloppy bookkeeping does little to improve the public image of selling or using medical marijuana. Hopefully this won’t undo the good work Smith has done helping suffering people and challenging ethically-dubious laws that snares marijuana in a grey area of legality.

Indeed, among the number of court cases involving Smith and the CBCC, this year a trial involving the CBCC’s head baker had restrictive parts of federal medical marijuana law deemed unconstitutional.

This is typical of laws that try to have it both ways. Health Canada allows people to purchase and/or grow marijuana for medical purposes, which is a tacit admission that marijuana can help some sick people – while the agency discourages its use. Doctors in B.C. can prescribe marijuana, but the doctors’ college discourages that due to legal liability and a lack of scientific studies.

Sick people having some access to pot is better than none, but inconsistent messages from health authorities and the federal government opens the door for advocates such as Smith to operate businesses that are effectively illegal.

As Smith noted, out of his tax troubles the club will become a non-profit, run by a board. This is good news for the many legitimate pot users in this city who don’t have to risk the dangers of buying from dealers on the street.