There are 22,000 people in Canada who are authorized to use marijuana for medical purposes. Of these, 14,000 are currently permitted to grow medical marijuana for personal use.
These patients are able to grow their own plants at home at a cost of approximately $1.80 per gram. However, proposed changes to current medical marijuana legislation by the Harper government will prohibit this activity. Instead, patients will be required to purchase their marijuana from a licensed commercial supplier at an anticipated cost of $7.60 per gram.
This will make criminals out of formerly law-abiding citizens who cannot afford to pay.
Consider the scenario faced by “Jim,” a Canadian medical marijuana patient:
Jim has a prescription for three grams of marijuana a day, which amounts to about 1,100 grams a year. Using the $1.80 a gram cost, his annual cost is $1,980. Under the expected prices in 2014, that cost would rise to $8,360 a year. Jim can’t afford that price for a drug that relieves the symptoms of his chronic condition. As a result, he will likely continue growing marijuana even though he will risk being sentenced to the mandatory minimum six months in jail for growing more than six plants (his PUPL authorizes him to have 15 plants). Jim muses that he would require hospital care if he ever went to prison because he would likely be dead in a month if housed in a regular cell.
According to the federal government’s own analysis, the majority of those who use medical marijuana are treating a chronic disease such as multiple sclerosis, severe arthritis, spinal cord injury or disease, cancer, HIV/AIDS or epilepsy. Their mean annual income is $30,000, with one-fifth of patients earning less than $20,000.
Drug prohibition restricts supply which leads to higher prices. Consumers (in this case, drug users) often resort to criminal activity in order to obtain the money required to pay these higher prices. With this in mind, it is obvious that raising the price of medical marijuana in Canada to roughly one-third to one-half of patients’ annual incomes will only increase drug-related crimes.
These individuals deserve compassion. Enacting laws that will lead to their incarceration isn’t the answer. Less government is.
Gregory Cummings writes about Canadian monetary and economic policy. His writing has been featured at the Ludwig von Mises Institute of Canada and the Ludwig von Mises Institute's Mises Daily publication. Read more.