Medical Cannabis Industry Braces for Legalization Impact

With the most recent polls showing the Liberal Party poised to win a minority government, one of leader Justin Trudeau’s campaign promises, cannabis legalization, has the medical cannabis industry curious to its own future.

Current Prime Minister Stephen Harper has overseen the creation of a medical cannabis program in Canada that includes almost 30 licensed producers authorized to sell to patients, with their physician’s approval.

What legalization means for this system is unknown, Trudeau and the Liberals haven’t revealed their plan for regulation, and that makes some health care professionals uncomfortable.

“Because there’s no clarity of what legalization looks like, we are all sitting here and waiting to see what the policy platform will be,” said Canadian Cannabis Clinics director Ronan Levy.

Levy said he’s concerned legalization could compromise the medical cannabis industry that has begun to bud in this country. With full recreational legalization, patients would, potentially, no longer need to consult with a doctor to access their medicine.

“Because there are medical benefits associated with [cannabis], we want to make sure that it’s being engaged with by the experts,” Levy said. “To the extent that it gets removed from the purvey of doctors and people who understand its impacts and limitations, there’s potential health risks for Canadians who may not understand the potential side effects or its interactions with other medicines.”

Levy also said legalization could impact the quality of cannabis that users access.

“Right now, the production side is highly regulated,” Levy said. “So the quality of cannabis being produced is consistent, it’s pure, and there are no pesticides.”

“If you deregulate that side of the industry, all of the sudden, the medical viability of cannabis becomes questionable.”

Tweed CEO Bruce Linton predicted that legalization will benefit the current cannabis industry, especially those within it producing the product.

“I would think that licensed producers — which are large, regulated, and under controlled shipping and accounting procedures — would be the first choice for delivery because that’s the first methodology to gain control of the supply chain,” Linton said. “The biggest risk for the sector right now is that there would be a such a high rate of growth and demand, that could make it difficult to do a terrific job of supplying properly and professionally.”

Liberal Party Chief financial officer Chuck Rifici co-founded Tweed and served as its CEO until he resigned in 2014.

The Liberals’ official party platform promises that, once taking office, the party will, “create a federal/provincial/territorial task force, and with input from experts in public health, substance abuse, and law enforcement, will design a new system of strict marijuana sales and distribution, with appropriate federal and provincial excise taxes applied.”