By Sandy Nicoll.
Some call it reckless, others see it as trailblazing, but no matter how you look at it on Oct. 17, 2018, Cannabis became a fully legal commodity in Canada. After nearly 100 years of prohibition, Canada has ushered in an entirely new industry which has wide-ranging implications for nearly every facet of society. That includes everything from policing, health care, justice, politics, business, culture and of course the medical cannabis patient. Some are postulating that cannabis has become Canada’s business story of the year.
In thirty three states in the U.S. citizens now have access to medical cannabis. In Canada, medical cannabis has been legal since 2001 and on October 17 of this year Canada became the ﬁrst G7 country in the world to legalize recreational cannabis. So, if you’re a medical cannabis user like myself or just curious, you’re probably wondering how legalization of recreational cannabis has or will affect the medical cannabis patient in Canada. First, let’s start with some facts. According to the Government of Canada, as of September 2018 there are currently just over 342,000 medical cannabis users in Canada. Wow, who knew! A poll conducted by Forum in 2016 found that over 5 million adults in Canada use recreational cannabis at least monthly and this number was expected to increase by 19% after legalization. $4.34 billion in revenue is predicted from legal cannabis sales across Canada in 2019, over 4 times more than the illegal market. To give you an idea of just how substantial the recreational cannabis industry is in Canada, on the ﬁrst day of legalization, Delta 9 Cannabis in Winnipeg, MB. sold more than $300,000 worth of recreational cannabis and more than $736,000 over the ﬁrst week, according to Delta 9’s CEO John Arbuthnot. Statistics Canada says sales in Canada over the ﬁrst 2 weeks totalled $43 million.
Months before recreational legalization there was a heightened anxiety felt by some medical cannabis users that they wouldn’t be able to obtain their medicine as easily and unfortunately this turned out to be true. According to James O’Hara, of the advocacy group Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Cannabis “It’s actually more than a supply issue. Really it’s something of a health crisis now”. Canadians with cannabis prescriptions are emailing his organization upset by “out of stock” signs at their regular suppliers websites. “Unfortunately, there are no regulations in place to actually guarantee supply for the medical market”, O’Hara said.
Medical cannabis patients I have spoken with since legalization say they are having a lot of issues obtaining their medication. Some had the foresight to order a bit extra before legalization but you can only order so much because of limits placed on your prescription. Even an acquaintance who works for a licensed producer (LP) said he was having difﬁculty obtaining his medical cannabis. He thinks the LP’s are being seduced by the much larger recreational market and have prioritized shipments to that sector. However, Allan Rewak, who is the director of the Cannabis Council of Canada (which represents 85% of the country’s cultivators and medical suppliers), says the opposite is true. “If anything we’re seeing adult consumer-use cannabis being repackaged and reallocated to ensure medicinal demand is met ﬁrst”. Rewak says a combination of factors have led to difﬁculties with the medicinal supply.
- Demand for medical cannabis increased dramatically prior to Oct.17 depleting inventory
- Lack of transparency and communication between LP’s and their medical patients contributes to anxiety
Depending on who you talk to and which LP they are using you get different responses. One of the LP’s I use has been better than most at keeping their patients in the “loop” when it comes to communicating shortages and supply issues and has had neither issue for longer than a few days. The other LP I order from is the complete opposite. They have been in and out of stock since before legalization and it’s not getting any better. Some of their products will be in stock for a day or two then they will be out of stock of some products for weeks or even months. This makes it very stressful for the medical cannabis patient. One of my friends said “It’s the not knowing if or even when my medicine will be available that’s so frustrating and downright scary”. Medical cannabis has helped a lot of people with many health issues including myself and it is frightening to know the medication you are taking and that’s working so well for some might not always be available.
Even though it might be difﬁcult to buy recreational cannabis in Canada right now it’s the medical cannabis patients who are really suffering. We need to have a steady and safe supply and we’re not seeing that yet. I pray it improves soon and will keep you informed as the story unfolds.
This has been One Canadian’s Perspective.
Sandy Nicoll lives in Winnipeg, MB., Canada and has a B.Ed. and a B.Hum.Ec. She has had ﬁbromyalgia, arthritis and hypothyroidism for over 30 years. She is ﬁnally living her life with a semblance of “normalcy” by using medical cannabis to treat some of her conditions. She lives with a wonderfully supportive hubby and her therapy cat Chloe (who’s using CBD oil for her own geriatric issues with some success).