The latest figures from Health Canada on registered marijuana users say 130,000 Canadians were signed up to access the drug through one of the country’s licensed cannabis producers, a 32-per-cent increase from September, 2016. The growth speaks to a public and medical community both being more at ease with marijuana use and a nation that’s in preparation mode awaiting the federal government’s move to legalize marijuana.
Last August, the Liberal government introduced changes to the access regulations for cannabis use for medical purposes, essentially giving patients authorized by a health practitioner the option of growing their own marijuana for personal use or getting the drug delivered to them from one of the now 38 licensed cannabis producers across the country. The new regulations, along with a growing sense that legalization is around the corner, have led to the dramatic spike in registered users. By mid-2014, for instance, only 7,900 Canadians were registered for access to medicinal cannabis.
And the market for pot is only expected to keep growing. “We expect cannabis sales to reach $4.6B by 2019 assuming that the adult-use recreational market commences in mid-2018,” says equities analyst Jason Zandberg, who says that along with domestic sales, Canada’s export market could add another $0.5 to $1.5 billion in sales.
Zandberg says that Canada marijuana producers should be preparing to churn out about twenty times their current production in about two year’s time. “Based on our projections, we believe the Canadian licensed producers will need to cultivate an aggregate of 610,000kg of cannabis to fulfill the demand for domestic and export demand in 2019. Last year’s total estimated production of 31,000kg represents just 5% of this total.”
It’s unclear when the proposed legislation will be announced or what the Liberal government has planned for both the production and dispensing ends of the marijuana industry once it becomes legal. For the moment, however, with the medical justification for marijuana use standing as the only legal one, Canadians are seemingly heading to their doctors in droves in order to get the go-ahead to use cannabis.
The Canadian Press spoke to Dr. Jeff Blackmer, vice-president of medical professionalism for the Canadian Medical Association, who says the increase in registered users likely stems from a combination of doctors becoming more comfortable prescribing marijuana for health conditions along with an uptick in patient demand. “When I talk to doctors about this, there’s no question people will say, ‘Some of my patients I feel really would not be here asking for it if they did not have these medical conditions,”’ says Dr. Blackmer. “But I also hear from colleagues that they do suspect some of the patients are there asking for the approval to use it recreationally,”
In December, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau restated his government’s intention to legalize, saying that the proposal is not aimed at pleasing recreational pot smokers but to “protect our kids and to keep the money out of the pockets of criminals.” Trudeau had said that he was “frustrated” with the proliferation of illegal marijuana dispensaries across the country and hoped that the police would enforce the law as it stands and criminally charge those who sell marijuana without a license.