Overview on Medical Marijuana in Canada

Despite being around for a few years, your average Canadian doesn’t even know that Canada has a medical cannabis program. Even if you did, chances are you heard it was a myth, illegal or impossible to get.

As a matter of fact, the program is administered on a federal level by Health Canada, which oversees the fifty or so manufacturers from coast to coast. You can even grow it at home (subject to approval).

Medical cannabis was legally recognized in 2001 following the passing of the Marihuana Medical Access Regulations (MMAR) program after a Canadian court ruled that prohibiting cannabis for medical use was unconstitutional. Since then, the program has evolved twice and is now called the ACMPR.

However, the program is barely promoted, can require loads of paperwork and may require chasing down a compassionate doctor. These hurdles help explain why less than 0.6% of the population is registered under Health Canada’s medical cannabis program.

Experts around the world are quickly learning about the medical wonders and capabilities of marijuana. This resource will guide you on how to get access to medical marijuana, what condition cannabis is best used for, the upcoming recreational market and will conclude with current cannabis laws and licensed producers. Let’s being!

Ganja.ca– Medical Marijuana Authority

Topic 1 How to get a medical card

To get a medical marijuana prescription in Canada, you will need a cannabis clinic. Similarly to other prescription drugs, one must be assessed by a physician and given a prescription (recommendation) before they can order or grow.

Ganja.ca is an online cannabis clinic and an online education center serving Canadians from coast to coast. Apply Now

Cannabis Clinics

Cannabis clinics are typically operated by medical professionals like doctors and certified nurses that truly believe in the healing power of medical cannabis. However, working with a traditional brick and mortar cannabis clinics can be quite time consuming and dreadful.

Virtual cannabis clinics like Ganja.ca have simplified the application process and imbedded technology throughout the entire process. You can now access cannabis without ever leaving your house and in case you didn’t know, you can even order your medicine online. The entire process can take under 4 days.

How it Works?

  1. 1. Apply online, it’s quick and easy (10-15 minutes)
  2. 2. Online consultation, it’s convenient and discreet (5-10 minutes)
  3. 3. Get recommended
  4. 4. Start shopping or growing (2-4 days)

The entire process takes 2 to 4 days from start to end, with the majority of the wait time coming from the licensed producer patient onboarding process. Growers can be up and licensed in as little as 2 days.

Do I Need Supporting Documents?

The short answer is no, you do not need supporting documents. However, you must have a strong case. Simply telling a doctor you have a headache or anxiety won’t cut it. The more information you provide us to prove your condition, the easier and quicker you’ll get approved and prescribed.

It is important to remember that medical professionals must uphold their professional and ethical standards, so they must be convinced that cannabis is appropriate for you.

Topic 2 Conditions that Medical Marijuana Help

Medical marijuana is known to help a breadth of conditions thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties among many others. Health Canada officially and explicitly recognizes medical cannabis for the following conditions:

Arthritis

Reduces joint pain and inflammation

HIV/AIDS

Improves appetite and reduces nausea

Cancer

Alleviates pain, vomiting and seizures

Anorexia

Helps develop appetite “munchies”

Spinal cord diseases or injuries

Reduces inflammation, improves sleep

Seizures

Helps control seizure, especially in children

Multiple sclerosis

Reduce muscle pain and control spasms

Insomnia

Induces sleep (indica strains)

For a complete list of eligible conditions and the official Health Canada guidelines see this resource.

Topic 3Marijuana Legalization in Canada

Cannabis for medicinal use is currently legal in Canada and will soon be legal for recreational use as well. If approved by Parliament of Canada, marijuana would become legal in July of 2018.

The Cannabis Act proposed would give provincial governments control over distribution and related laws, and the feds control over licensing and licensed producers.

Trudeau's Stance on Medical Marijuana and Full Legalization

Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, is unquestionably pro pot. Legalizing marijuana was arguably one of his biggest electoral campaign promises on which he has delivered thus far. You can read Trudeau and his party’s official stance and policy on the Liberal Party’s website.

“We will legalize, regulate, and restrict access to marijuana.”

Trudeau’s liberal government proposed the Cannabis Act with the promise and goal of keeping cannabis out of the hands of children and keeping profits out of the hands of criminals. Experts are estimating a potential industry of over 22bln annually.

Topic 4Marijuana Dispensaries and how to buy marijuana

Although not yet legal recreationally, marijuana dispensaries have been popping up everywhere in Canada for the past several years in the form of store fronts, delivery services and online shops.

Despite being illegal, the government has been quite lax with dispensaries. There have been crackdowns of some of the bigger scale operations in Ontario and British Columbia.

Marijuana can be purchased from store fronts, delivery services or online shops. While some dispensaries run their shops like quasi-licensed producers (doctor’s recommendation and other information required), others require little to nothing (online shops and delivery services).

You can easily find a dispensary online or near you using a simple Google search or through an aggregator.

Topic 5 Marijuana Laws in Canada

The Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulation (ACMPR) is a relatively complex system administrated by the federal government, more specifically, Health Canada. It outlines the entire system, from production and distribution to patient eligibility.

In short, it is 100% legal for eligible Canadians have the right to:

  • Purchase from a licensed producer;
  • Produce their own medical cannabis; and
  • Have medical cannabis grown on their behalf

The latter two are uncommon due to the capital and labour intensity as well as the steep bureaucratic hill.

The federal government regulates the production and supply by controlling the LPs across the country using a licensing system.

There are essentially 5 types of licenses:

  1. Dried cannabis cultivation
  2. Dried cannabis sale
  3. Cannabis oil production
  4. Cannabis oil sale
  5. Starting material (plants and seeds)

Becoming an LP requires a combination of experience, deep pockets, and of course government approval. It is worthy to note that edibles are illegal at the time of this writing and are intended to remain so for the near future (even in the recreational market).

Topic 6 Popular Cities and Provinces for Medical Marijuana

Medical Marijuana Services in Ontario

Medical Marijuana Services in Calgary

Medical Marijuana Services in Vancouver

Medical Marijuana Services in Edmonton

Medical Marijuana Services in Whistler

Medical Marijuana Services in Toronto

TOPIC 7 BRIEF HISTORY (2014 – 2017)

Medical marijuana has been around in Canada since late 2013, following the enactment of parts of the MMPR. Now called the ACMPR, this set of regulations allows Canadians to obtain authorization from a medical professionals and access marijuana for medical use. In other words, it’s legal if you have a valid prescription from a registered physician or nurse depending.

Interestingly, despite being rather difficult to obtain a prescription, the number of medical marijuana patients registered to buy from licensed producers (LP’s) has grown exponentially since the program was launched nearly half a decade ago. In its first year of launch, the program attracted only 8,000 patients. Total patient registration has increased by over fifteen times since then.

The election of Trudeau in 2015 has been a major catalyst for the industry (recreational included), with patient demand growing at a record pace. Fast forward to today, there are nearly 55 licensed producers (explained in TOPIC 3) over 200,000 registered patients and international export agreements being signed.

  • 2014: 7,914
  • 2017: 235,621

Registered patients

TOPIC 8 LICENSED PRODUCERS

There are currently 91 licenses that have been issued to some 80 producers in Canada, with the majority of them located in Ontario and British Columbia. Producers can apply for one or more licenses for one or many products (dried cannabis, oils, plants, seeds, or other). Most LPs have a license to produce and sell dried cannabis. Licenses are issued together with a quota, limiting the amount an LP can produce and distribute in a year.


# of Licensed Producers

  • Nova Scotia 3
  • New Brunswick 2
  • Prince Edward Island 1
  • Quebec 6
  • Ontario 53
  • Manitoba 2
  • Saskatchewan 4
  • Alberta 5
  • British Columbia 21
  • Total 97

Licenses Issues by Health Canada

Source: Health Canada

Insight: Number of Licenses by Type

Source: Health Canada

The sharp increase in license producer is very much likely due to the anticipated legalization in July 2018. Canadians smoke a lot of pot and the current supply is almost entirely all used for medical patients alone.

Further, LP’s are quite limited from a sales and marketing perspective. Producers, like any other marijuana-related enterprise, aren’t permitted to advertise (much like cigarettes). They are essentially restricted to social media and other referrals as discussed below and later in Topic 4.

This makes it quite difficult to not only attract new customers but to build a strong brand and relationship with the community. Thus, most LP’s are very active on social media and work hard to get on the news, whether it be for a press release, becoming publicly traded or completing a business acquisition. A common trend is developing proprietary products in view of the fact that consistency is essential in the medicinal industry vertical.

To make it even harder on LPs, there are restriction as to how they obtain patients (customers), but rightfully so. Given that licensed producers are motivated to drive sales and profits, prescribing medical cannabis directly to a patient can be a conflict of interest. As a result, licensed producers are highly dependent on their referral network, namely medical marijuana clinics and independent doctors.

Typically, the LP’s sell to Canadians with a valid prescription from a practicing medical professional (in its simplest form). Since marijuana is still highly regarded as a drug rather than a medicine, obtaining a prescription from a medical professional can be quite a challenge. Most are completely against the plant or are not educated enough to be comfortable prescribing it.

TOPIC 9 QUALITY, PRICING & SELECTION

QUALITY. When dealing with cannabis quality, one more look further than the aesthetics and odour of a product. Needless to say, these are important, but the chemical composition, consistency and growth technique are what really distinguish medical marijuana from ‘street’ pot. Most, if not all, of the licensed producers spend countless resources on research and development for this very purpose.

PRICING. However, quality does vary, even within the medicinal world and with it so does the price tag. Our most recent pricing study revealed that dried cannabis prices ranged from $6.81 to $11.67 per gram, with the average being $9.46 per gram. Prices typically vary based on the complexity of the strain, the time and effort required to grow and its proprietary nature and brand. Further, some strains are cultivated in small batches and hand trimmed, while others go through a more automated production process. Licensed producers have even started offering organically grown medical cannabis.

SNAPSHOT | Average Price Per Gram (August 2017)

Source: CannStandard

Average cannabis oil prices varied between $1.48 and $3.33 per millilitre (mL) and the average price per mL was $2.68. With the exception of Whistler Medical Marijuana (Whistler) and Emerald Health Botanicals (Emerald), LP’s hold on average 3 different oil products. Four of the LPs that have a license to sell cannabis oils were out of stock.

SNAPSHOT | Average Price Per mL (August 2017)

Source: CannStandard

SELECTION. Most LPs carry a spectrum of products to cater to the different eligible conditions (see Topic 6) and to offer selection to its patients. The average producer carries 8.8 different dried cannabis products, with some carrying as many as 16 different products. In wake of the anticipated legalization in July 2018, producers have been ramping up their efforts to create new and distinct brands. Further, certain LPs carry oils and capsules, increasing their product offerings. This resource does not consider accessories.

SNAPSHOT | Dry Cannabis Selections (August 2017)

Source: CannStandard

TOPIC 10 THE PROVINCE OF QUEBEC

As with most things in Canada, the province of Quebec is always complicating things and with no exception for medical marijuana. Unlike every other province in the country, the provincial college of physicians requires patients to be registered to the Quebec Cannabis Registry if granted a prescription by a Quebec doctors.

Given that the current system is already complicated as is, this extra layer of work for patients has resulted in relatively very low adoption in Quebec compared to other provinces. In fact, Quebec has the lowest medical cannabis patients per capita.

However, Quebec residents can get around the Quebec Cannabis Registry by working with a virtual cannabis clinic. Given that these clinics are owned by or employ medical professionals from outside the province of Quebec, they are exempt from all that extra paperwork and bureaucracy. Not only that, they can apply from the comfort of their couch or bed.

Percentage of Medical Cannabis Patients by Province

Source: Health Canada; Statistics Canada, 2016 Census of Population.

TOPIC 11 THE FUTURE

In case you weren’t aware, Canadian loves to smoke marijuana both recreationally and medically. As a matter of fact, recreational marijuana will become legal federally as of July 2018 and each province will set its own rules. Two provinces having already established their frameworks. This means that one province may allow you to smoke anytime, anywhere while another may make it quite difficult, despite being legal, although this is highly unlikely.

Provincial governments have expressed that they feel pressure to have their rule books ready for this new industry by next summer and rightfully so. Drafting all the governing legislations and mapping out and deploying the required infrastructure within twelve months is quite a feat. Hopefully, the time crunch won’t impact the industry in a negative way.

In the meantime, licensed producers keep on getting bigger and bigger, expanding their operations, buying out competitors and aggressively attacking new markets. However, most LP’s are either at or near full production capacity, which can prove to be a big problem come next year when the market becomes recreational. It is important to note, however, that there are many pending license producer applications according to recent estimates. Further, 2017 was the most active for Health Canada with respect to handing out licenses as detailed in Topic 3.

The market deficiency will attract new players and in turn intensified competition. From a consumer perspective, this is fantastic news for many different reasons. Not only will a surge in supply drive down the price but it will stimulate research and innovation, and bolster the estimated $22.6 billion industry.

subscribe to our Free weekly newsletter