Canada Rolls Out a ‘$1 Billion’ Privatized Medical Marijuana Industry

Health officials expect it to become more than a $1 billion industry, but pro-weed advocates are unimpressed

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Marijuana was Canada’s newest mail-order product Tuesday, the inaugural day of a controlled medical marijuana industry that is expected to grow to more than $1 billion dollars within 10 years. But even as the new system privatizes distribution, critics fear regulation under the conservative-led government will make it harder for patients to get access to the drug.

In Canada, medical marijuana has been legal but highly regulated for more than a decade. Patients with doctor approval could grow or have someone else grow small quantities or request limited amounts from Health Canada, the national healthcare department.

But the conservative-led government voted earlier this year to effectively scrap that system in favor of a private—but also strictly regulated—system, targeting the flow of legal marijuana into the black market and shedding Health Canada’s role in marijuana production. Health Canada will phase out the current system, under which it sells registered users marijuana grown by Prairie Plant Systems, by the end of March.

Instead, starting Tuesday, medical marijuana users, or aspiring users, can send in an application directly to sanctioned corporate producers, along with a doctor’s note (or in some cases, a nurse’s note). If approved, they can place an order, pay the market price (the black market price is about $10 a gram; officials say the medical marijuana price will drop below that within a year), and wait for the secure courier to deliver their weed.

(MORE: Majority of Americans Support Legalization of Marijuana)

There are nearly 40,000 people registered to use the drug under the current system in a country with a tenth the population of the U.S., and the government expects that number to balloon—up to 450,000 by 2024—and fuel what could become a $1.3 billion domestic pot industry. But the government expects that the privatized system, with only heavily-vetted producers (so far there are two licensed distributors, of at least 156 applications), will help ensure a higher level of oversight.

“We’re fairly confident that we’ll have a healthy commercial industry in time,” Sophie Galarneau, a senior official with Health Canada, told the Canadian Press. “It’s a whole other ball game.”

The new regulations have failed to win over advocates for legalized marijuana, who have faced strong resistance from the conservative government led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper. In November, even as two states in the United States voted to legalize recreational marijuana, the Harper government passed strict minimum penalties for people who grow as few as six marijuana plants.

“They treat pot like it’s plutonium,” says Blair Longley, head of the single-issue Marijuana Party that fielded five candidates in the 2011 parliamentary elections. Speaking to TIME, Longley says he’s concerned the market-based system, which nixes the right to cheaply grow marijuana at home, will make marijuana less affordable for patients.

“We always knew that marijuana would get legalized in the worst possible way. It’s not a surprise that that’s what’s happening,” Longley says.

Undeterred, potential growers are lining up to be licensed in the new system, including the conditional owners of a former Hershey’s chocolate factory.

“The opportunity in the industry is significant,” Eric Nash, a licensed grower in the past who’s planning to enter the new market, told the Canadian Press. “We’ll see a lot of moving and shaking.”

MORE: Is Medical Marijuana Safe for Children?

28 comments
jleavitt84
jleavitt84

It is interesting to see how many people support marijuana now. I remember a few years ago, people were saying how bad it was. Now that it is called "medical marijuana" lots of people say that it's ok. Like I said, it's interesting to see how many people have changed sides.


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CookieMunster
CookieMunster

When a little lie can cost you: Two white lies that could get your life insurance claim denied
When applying for life insurance, absolute honesty is the only smart option
1. I don't smoke
Denial or wishful thinking has no place when answering this question. Lying about your smoking habits could cause your death benefits to be reduced or even revoked right when your family is counting on them most. It's worth noting that the insurance definition of a smoker is generally a male or female who uses nicotine, including cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, or anti-smoking products like nicotine patches and nicotine gum. As such, just because you haven't smoked today, or are currently trying to quit smoking, doesn't make you a non-smoker. If you're currently reviewing life insurance options, be sure to ask your agent to clearly define the company's smoker policy. In most cases, in order to qualify for a preferred rate, you'll need to be smoke free for the last 12 months.
2. I've never done drugs
This should be a given. Lying about illegal or prescription drug use and abuse, however casual you may think it is, can easily get your life insurance denied (either after your death or even during your lifetime). However, just because you've had problems in the past doesn't mean you can't qualify for coverage. Individuals who have experienced difficult lifestyle issues, such as past alcohol and drug abuse, can still receive coverage; policy rates are typically 50% to 300% more than normal life insurance rates. Individuals who have severe lifestyle issues may find their application denied.

In cases of fraud, life insurers can typically cancel coverage and deny claims at any time.

nobodyhasahat
nobodyhasahat

This is a control and $$$$$$$$ issue for the Harper Thieves.........thats it...thats all. Street price on the West Coast right now is around $900............while I can produce my own for about $1.50 per gram.........Under the new rules (supporting Conservative's and their Grower Friends)  it will rise to around $11 per gram......$4994.00!

Don't call that a money grab???????

BruceDean
BruceDean

“The opportunity in the industry is significant,” Eric Nash

"Opportunity" - as in profiting at the expense of the ill.

MuzzyLu
MuzzyLu

People should be able to grow marijuana, just like having a vegetable garden. To have medical marijuana legal to patients and for them not being able to grow it, is wrong and sets up huge profits for government owned farms. A great ebook that has interesting recipes for Dragon mints and Cannabis chocolates: MARIJUANA - Guide to Buying, Growing, Harvesting, and Making Medical Marijuana Oil and Delicious Candies to Treat Pain and Ailments by Mary Bendis, Second Edition. Only 2.99.  

tgm404
tgm404

Government sets up a monopoly for one company, and I thought only the USA could be so corrupt.

AssHat
AssHat

That's some free market we got right there boy.

bognorcalling
bognorcalling

@CLEARUK From what I can make out, the law's not perfect but, what a statement to the world - "USA/UN, your prohibition is crumbling fast!"

GTMcG
GTMcG

@theninjaJWill @ScottBix Not so rosy as the headline implies. Six unlicensed plants gets you mandatory jail time. That's bogus!

billgriggs4
billgriggs4

"There are nearly 40,000 people registered to use the drug under the current system in a country with a tenth the population of the U.S., and the government expects that number to balloon—up to 450,000 by 2024..."

The number of registered medical users will not balloon that much. By 2024 it will be legal in the US and Canada and several other countries and in most cases will be sold at stores kind like liquor stores, and hardly anyone will feel the need to be a registered medical user.  

Legalization is inevitable. It's coming. More states in the US will legalize in the next few years.  Uruguay will within a couple of months and other countries will follow suit.  The UN will end up modifying the conventions on controlled substances to allow for a regulated marijuana industry in countries that want that. They'll do it or risk seeing the whole house of cards come crashing in because countries will ignore international law on this and all the UN will be able to do is issue statements about how very very very upset they are. There will not be enough support for any meaningful sanctions on sovereign nations that decide to regulate the marijuana industry within their borders. The days of globally enforced marijuana prohibition are over. 

The only question I have is who will do it first, the US or Canada.  I always thought it would be Canada, but now I'm not so sure.  Things are moving fast in the US.  Support just keeps growing.  Two states have legalized and several more will by the end of 2016. The federal government is allowing these states to regulate marijuana within their borders, so now they can't complain about other countries legalizing. Even that ancient Republican John McCain has now suggested that maybe we should legalize marijuana.  Trudeau is definitely not alone.  It is no longer political suicide for politicians to be in favor of legalization because that's what the majority want and the old folks who are most opposed are steadily dying off and being replaced by people much more open to legalization.  It's going to happen.  It's only a matter of time.  I seriously doubt that we make it all the way to 2024 without it happening.


Openminded1
Openminded1

Good maybe Justin Beieber will go back to Canada.

JohnDavidDeatherage
JohnDavidDeatherage

So now, you can't grow it but have to rely on a commercial producer?  By that logic, you shouldn't be able to grow tomatoes. You should have to buy them from reputable grower.

What happened to the concept of personal liberty?

CookieMunster
CookieMunster

@0cinneide

@rvaughnmd

When a little lie can cost you: Two white lies that could get your life insurance claim denied
When applying for life insurance, absolute honesty is the only smart option
1. I don't smoke
Denial or wishful thinking has no place when answering this question. Lying about your smoking habits could cause your death benefits to be reduced or even revoked right when your family is counting on them most. It's worth noting that the insurance definition of a smoker is generally a male or female who uses nicotine, including cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, or anti-smoking products like nicotine patches and nicotine gum. As such, just because you haven't smoked today, or are currently trying to quit smoking, doesn't make you a non-smoker. If you're currently reviewing life insurance options, be sure to ask your agent to clearly define the company's smoker policy. In most cases, in order to qualify for a preferred rate, you'll need to be smoke free for the last 12 months.
2. I've never done drugs
This should be a given. Lying about illegal or prescription drug use and abuse, however casual you may think it is, can easily get your life insurance denied (either after your death or even during your lifetime). However, just because you've had problems in the past doesn't mean you can't qualify for coverage. Individuals who have experienced difficult lifestyle issues, such as past alcohol and drug abuse, can still receive coverage; policy rates are typically 50% to 300% more than normal life insurance rates. Individuals who have severe lifestyle issues may find their application denied.

In cases of fraud, life insurers can typically cancel coverage and deny claims at any time.

Duncan_20903
Duncan_20903

@billgriggs4 all it takes to opt out of the Single Convention treaty is to write the U.N. a Dear John letter and give 6 months notice. Bolivia did just that in 2011 because they wanted to re-legalize coca leaves for chewing. After more than 12 months the U.N. capitulated.

The SCT is nothing more than a red herring. Aside from that prohibition is our thing. Other countries let us have our way because otherwise well use arm twisting and/or stop giving them free money to agree with us.

http://www.wola.org/news/bolivia_withdraws_from_the_un_single_convention_on_narcotic_drugs 

Cannadude
Cannadude

@JohnDavidDeatherage That's almost how it is in New Zealand. No private gardener may sell or gift any home grown veggies or seeds.

billgriggs4
billgriggs4

@Duncan_20903 @billgriggs4 It's not just a red herring.  The UN will have to modify the convention. The US has already done plenty of arm twisting to get other nations to sign off on this convention in years past. We pushed for it, hard. There is no way our leaders would just withdraw from the thing. They don't want the whole thing to fall apart. They don't want everybody withdrawing.  It will get modified and that may very well happen at the special session on this convention scheduled for 2016. That's going to be a huge year all around for marijuana law reform. We'll see a few ballot initiatives in 2014, but the big money won't be there for these things until the 2016 presidential election when young voters will be out in force.

billgriggs4
billgriggs4

@63R01d @billgriggs4    It may be legal to possess a small amount.  The new laws haven't come into effect yet.  Their lower house has voted, passing Mujica's legalization bill by a narrow margin.  Their Senate will vote this month. They were already much more in favor of this than their lower house. Then it goes to Mujica to sign it, and of course he's been pushing for this so he'll sign it quickly. Then they'll have a legal industry with legal production and sales. 

Sandydog5
Sandydog5

@Cannadude ,  That sounds ridiculous, not being able to give the extras away.   

billgriggs4
billgriggs4

@Duncan_20903 @billgriggs4 They can't bury the proposal with a referendum. First it has to pass.  Then they can do a referendum to do away with it. They have to have 25% of voters show up for the vote on it.  The majority was against their abortion laws too and they had a referendum vote.  Only 8.8% of voters showed up.  This referendum thing isn't going to be a problem.

Duncan_20903
Duncan_20903

@billgriggs4 there's been some rumbling about having a national referendum about the issue and Mr. Mujica has indicated that he wouldn't stand in the way. The last poll numbers that I saw say a national referendum will bury the proposal.