When Justin Trudeau became Canada’s prime minister in October 2015, there were 3o,357 citizens registered to legally receive medical marijuana. By December of 2016, that number skyrocketed to 129,876 — a quadrupling of qualified patients.
“I think it’s really gaining momentum. … We’re seeing growth in the industry of 10 to 15 per cent per month,” Derek Ogden, CEO of National Access Cannabis, told CTV News.
CTV obtained the data from Health Canada and reported that the dramatic increase in the federal program’s participation rate is “is due to better-informed physicians and patients about the benefits of marijuana in treating a wide range of ailments, including pain, nausea, seizures and anxiety.”
During the 2015 election campaign, Trudeau’s platform included a promise to legal cannabis for recreational use. The federal government vows to make good on the policy change sometime this spring, but in the meantime impatient Canadians are acquiring prescriptions from doctors.
Dr. John Goodhew, a Toronto doctor who supports medical marijuana for specific conditions, told Maclean’s Magazine that he has seen an increase in patients seeking prescriptions.
“So patients will frequently call me and I’m not able to help them because I only consider marijuana as a therapeutic agent for people in my practice, people that I know, people whose medical histories I’m familiar with,” he said. “And this is really the only responsible way to do it. Unfortunately it leaves other people kind of in the lurch.”
According to Goodhew, “[P]eople will come in and just ask (for a prescription) and I’ll say ‘What is the medical condition?’ and they’ll say ‘Can’t you just make something up?’ And I’m like, ‘No, it doesn’t work that way.’”
Goodhew calls it the “Trudeau effect,” noting that the nation is anticipating full legalization for recreational adult use.
Dr. Jeff Blackmer, vice-president of medical professionalism for the Canadian Medical Association, told Maclean’s the prescription increase could be a reflection of doctors becoming more comfortable with cannabis, coupled with growing patient demand.
Despite the growing patient demand and the promise of recreational legalization, tensions are mounting in Canada.
Just last week, Toronto police charged longtime activist/businessman Marc Emery and wife Jodie with drug trafficking, conspiracy and possession. The couple is accused of selling marijuana to people without prescriptions, a violation of federal law.
Marc Emery, known as “The Prince of Pot,” has been behind bars for marijuana offenses several times. From 2009 t0 2014, he served a five-year sentence in a United States federal prison for selling mail-order cannabis seeds across in the U.S.