Looking at the Changing Landscape of Medical Marijuana in Canada

With all the media focus on the legalization of recreational cannabis, it’s easy to forget that Canada has a well-established medical marijuana sector. In fact, medical marijuana has been legal in Canada in one form or another since 2001, even though previous regulations were somewhat restrictive.

Under the new Cannabis Act, the previous 30-day limitation period for buying cannabis from a licensed seller has been removed to ensure there is no break in a patient’s supply. In addition, patients will have access to an increasing supply of licensed producers. There are currently 132 such suppliers in Canada and Health Canada notes it has licensed more producers in the past year than the previous four years combined.

Home & Away

Even though there are a plethora of cannabis producers in Canada, some companies are looking further afield for product. For instance, at least seven licensed Canadian cannabis producers have set up shop in Colombia, investing more than $100 million in a country that used to be known for its illegal exports of cocaine, according to CBC News.
Producing a gram of cannabis in Colombia costs five cents compared to about $1.50 in Canada, said Matt Karnes, managing partner of GreenWave Advisors, a New York-based investment firm, noting the country has lower wages (the minimum wage in Colombia is about $1.64 per hour, compared to $14 per hour in Ontario) and better natural growing conditions.

In addition, in 2015, the Colombian government established a licensing framework for the cultivation, processing, research and development and exportation of cannabis derivatives for scientific and medical purposes, opening the door for the global medical marijuana industry.

PharmaCielo Ltd., a Canadian-financed private firm, was the first company licensed to produce medicinal-grade cannabis under Colombia’s new licensing laws. Led by executive and entrepreneur Anthony Wile, PharmaCielo has one of the largest cannabis production operations in Colombia, has already invested about $40 million in the country and employs more than 150 Colombians at its main operation near Medellin.

The Cannabis Advantage

According to Health Canada’s website, there is evidence of potential therapeutic uses for cannabis or its component chemicals (CBD and THC) and many Canadians report using cannabis for medical purposes for health problems such as chronic pain, nausea associated with chemotherapy, and spasticity with multiple sclerosis. While cannabis can be used by some people for their health problems, determining whether cannabis is appropriate to treat an individual’s symptoms is best made through a discussion with a healthcare practitioner, Health Canada notes.

Although medical marijuana is easier to get today than back in 2001, potential patients still require a medical document from a healthcare provider and must then register with a licensed producer.

Emmy Skylar

Emmy Skylar started working for Debate Report in 2017. Emmy grew up in a small town in northern Manitoba. But moved to Ontario for university. Before joining Debate Report, Emmy briefly worked as a freelance journalist for CBC News.  She covers politics and the economy.

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