Survey: Canada’s medical cannabis market is impeded by access issues


Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

Medical cannabis consumers in Canada are seeking out their medicine from unregulated and illegal channels, based on a new survey carried out by Medical Cannabis Canada (MCC).

The outcome of this survey showed that a mere 37 percent of Canadians who use the plant in its medicinal form are doing so with a prescription.

“This is concerning since patients without a medical document report substantially less engagement with health-care professionals and greater use of unregulated markets to access their treatment,” reads an excerpt from an MCC news release.

Furthermore, data published by Statistics Canada claims that legal cannabis sales in the North American country have dropped by CAD $150 million (USD $113 million) on a quarterly basis since 2017.

Systemic hurdles create limitations for Canada’s medical cannabis program

The medical division of Canopy Growth, Spectrum Therapeutics, provided a grant as a way of funding this survey into Canada’s medical cannabis program. Two groups participated in the survey, which involved a total of 1,000 medical patients and 1,785 people from the Medical Cannabis Canada network.

Perhaps the most unsettling discovery to be gleaned from this survey on Canada’s legal medical cannabis program was that 57 percent of people are unable to find a practitioner with whom they can consult before obtaining a medical document.

In most instances, this is forcing patients to seek out the green stuff from alternative avenues. Additionally, systemic barriers are deterring patients from obtaining their medicine legally, such as the expense of plant-based medicines and the hassle of visiting a licensed healthcare practitioner to obtain the necessary application forms and medical documents.

Within the last year, the vast majority of patients dosed up on cannabis as a medicine by obtaining the plant from recreational retailers. Furthermore, 24 percent sought their weed from an unregulated dispensary, while one-third of survey respondents got their hands on weed with the help of a dealer, family member, friend or acquaintance.

Survey shows that concerns regarding Canada’s medical cannabis program must be addressed

The project leader for this survey on Canada’s medical cannabis program, Max Monahan-Ellison, drew attention to the fact that numerous areas of concern must be addressed if patients in the Great White North are to be continuously satisfied.

“As the Cannabis Act comes up for review in 2021, collaborative efforts are needed by the industry, nonprofits and regulators to ensure patients can access their treatment and health-care professional support,” explained Monahan-Ellison.

The dedicated medical cannabis community advocate is urging industry experts to focus on benefits coverage expansion, in addition to the elimination of costly taxes and the authorization of medical cannabis distribution via pharmacies; mail delivery services currently exist.

“It is essential for Canadians to have access to support from health-care professionals to help them navigate medical cannabis safely and effectively.  Unfortunately, there is little incentive to access a medical document or use the legal medical channel, and many are being left to manage their treatment alone,” added Monahan-Ellison, who also acts as an MCC board member.

You can get a copy of the report by clicking here.