Canada’s Medical Cannabis Program Safe (For Now)

The future of medicinal cannabis in Canada
Image: Wild0ne

Medical cannabis companies and patients in Canada can breathe a little easier after the country’s health agency said its program would continue post-recreational legalisation – but its ongoing permanence isn’t guaranteed.

Last month we reported the Canadian Medical Association has suggested the country’s medical cannabis system be phased out once adult-use legalisation kicks in on October 17 this year. The CMA believes there will be no reason for Canadians to access it through their doctors past this date.

This stoked fear of a situation occurring such as that in the U.S. state of Oregon where the medical cannabis market crashed after the state legalized cannabis for recreational use in 2014. This had knock-on effects for the availability of medicinal products.

However, CBC reports Health Canada says it will continue operating the system, but it will be reviewed within five years.

The Health Canada website states:

“Access to cannabis for medical purposes will continue to be permitted after the Cannabis Act comes into force. Health Canada remains committed to maintaining a distinct system to provide patients with reasonable access to cannabis for medical purposes.”

By the end of March this year the total number of patients registered for Canada’s program had reached 296,702.

With an approval from their doctor, Canadians can currently purchase quality-controlled medicinal cannabis from one of the producers licensed by Health Canada. They are also able to grow a limited amount of cannabis for their own medical purposes, or have someone produce it for them.

There are 116 licensed producers in the country. As to how many dispensaries there are, that isn’t clear – and there are a considerable number operating outside the (current) laws.

All Canadians of legal age (19 everywhere except Quebec and Alberta, where the age is 18) will be able to purchase cannabis from bricks and mortar retailers and online from October 17.

With the date fast approaching and a major uptick in consumption expected, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has warned consuming it could have consequences for Canadians crossing the border into the United States; but that his government is working with American officials on the issue.