If Canada was to end its medical cannabis program once recreational use is legalised, could it perhaps cause headaches for other countries, including Australia?
Canada’s medicinal cannabis program has been a rip-roaring success. As we reported in July, by the end of March this year the total number of patient registrations had reached 296,702; up significantly on 174,503 at the end of April last year.
Cannabis is set to be fully legalised in Canada – meaning including recreational use – in October this year.
The situation has led to the Canadian Medical Association calling for the country’s medical cannabis system to be phased out once legalization happens as the CMA believes there will be no reason for Canadians to access it through their doctors.
So, What’s The Problem?
In other countries, including Australia, medical cannabis access is still in its infancy and still fighting for credibility in Australia’s health sector.
One of the challenges facing acceptance of medical cannabis is it’s seen by some as purely the thin edge of the wedge of legalising for recreational use. With Canada heading down this path, rather than being held up as a shining example for medical cannabis it could create added resistance in Australia; eroding support among those who have a positive but fragile view of medical marijuana. The Canadian experience could become the poster-child for those opposed that fear a marijuana free-for-all.
Pressure on the government from this opposition could see the current tough line for patients wanting to access cannabis maintained for longer than it otherwise may.
Sharlene Mavor from Medical Cannabis Research Australia recently told news.com.au that she anticipates recreational cannabis will become available in Australia in about five to 10 years’ time.
That may be viewed as good news by some, but it’s important that medical cannabis can get into the hands of those that can really benefit – and sooner rather than later. The recreational issue at this point in time could become an unwelcome distraction.
The other issue is the impact it could have on local medical cannabis companies and patients – in Oregon, its medical marijuana market has plummeted since the state legalized cannabis for recreational use in 2014 and that has had implications concerning the availability of medicinal products.