Now that cannabis has been legalized in Canada for non-medical use, less attention is given to the large community of patients who use cannabis as part of their medical treatment. The number of active users has increased in the days since legalization, and approximately 70% of respondents in a recent survey either “accept” or “fully support” legalized cannabis.
This high rate of acceptance and increased demand for cannabis products through legal means also translates to the production and sale of more medical grade cannabis. After all, as more people in Canada discover the benefits of cannabis and become accustomed to full legalization, more patients will seek out cannabis-based treatments. This is reflected in the current data. The number of patients registered to use medical grade cannabis grew from 23,930 to 342,103 between 2015-2018, and experts anticipate this trend to continue.
As demand for medical grade cannabis grows, supply must keep up accordingly. This will require more licenced holders that have the proper credentials and skills to cultivate medical grade cannabis. It will also require more retailers who can ship cannabis to registered patients.
But what is the process for obtaining a licence to produce medical grade cannabis? And what exactly qualifies as medical grade cannabis? Before we answer these questions, let’s discuss how patients in Canada actually use medical grade cannabis and the conditions for which it is best suited.
What Does Medical Grade Cannabis Treat?
Cannabis has a wide-range of medical uses, however it is most effective for relief of pain, nausea, or a lack of appetite. A physician may prescribe medical grade cannabis to treat these isolated symptoms, or as part of a larger treatment plan. For example, medical grade cannabis is frequently prescribed for the following conditions:
- Multiple Sclerosis – This disease affects the immune system, and often causes pain and muscle stiffness or spasms. Medical grade cannabis can help relieve these symptoms, though it cannot slow the progression of the disease. For this, your doctor will need to prescribe other treatment options.
- AIDS – Those suffering the effects of AIDS often experience decreased appetite and weight loss. This, in turn, can make the body weaker and less capable of fighting infection. Medical grade cannabis helps increase appetite and regulate body weight for AIDS patients.
- Cancer – Chemotherapy is one of the primary treatments for many different types of cancer. However, chemotherapy can cause nausea, vomiting, and reduced appetite in many patients. Medical grade cannabis if frequently prescribed to curb these side effects.
- Chronic Pain – Pain associated with spinal cord injuries, nerve damage, or other chronic conditions can greatly reduce a patient’s quality of life. Medical grade cannabis is prescribed to bring relief to patients with chronic pain, as well as patients who are facing pain closer to the end of life.
- Anxiety – Moderate to severe anxiety can make it difficult for patients to maintain a healthy social life or even function in their daily routine. Medical grade cannabis, especially strains with certain CBD-to-THC ratios, can be effective at relieving chronic anxiety in many patients.
These are certainly not the only conditions for which medical cannabis can be prescribed. However, these are some of the most common cases. That said, patients should always consult a medical professional to determine the best treatment option for them.
Now that we understand what medical cannabis can treat, let’s take a look at how medical cannabis is defined and which types of cannabis qualify.
What Qualifies as ‘Medical Grade Cannabis?’
There is no standardized test to differentiate medical cannabis from non-medical cannabis. This is because different strains can be more or less effective for certain patients. For example, a patient who needs to increase their appetite may require a strain that has higher THC levels, while a patient with chronic pain or anxiety may need a strain with higher CBD levels. So, a medical professional must indicate which active ingredients would be most beneficial for a given condition.
While many different strains can qualify as ‘medical grade cannabis,’ there are certain regulations and limitations on how medical grade cannabis can be procured and used. According to Canadian law, a patient can procure medical cannabis in any of the following ways:
- A patient can obtain cannabis from a licence holder who holds a Sale for Medical Purposes licence.
- A patient can obtain cannabis from a healthcare professional or hospital staff during the course of treatment
- A patient can produce their own medical cannabis, as long as they are properly registered to do so.
- A registered caregiver may produce medical grade cannabis for their patients.
It is important to note that a patient can only procure cannabis from one source at any given time. This prevents patients from possessing more than the legal limit or abusing their prescription.
Additionally, while there are no regulations on the books concerning how medical grade cannabis must be consumed, Health Canada suggests adhering to the following protocol when consuming medical cannabis:
- In most cases, individuals should consume no more than 3 grams of cannabis per day. However, this amount may vary depending on the type and severity of a patient’s condition.
- Patients should wait at least 30 minutes between inhalations to properly gauge the effects and adjust the dosage accordingly.
- Similarly, patients should wait at least 2 hours between doses of cannabis edibles for the same reasons.
- For patients with asthma or other conditions that make it difficult to breathe, it is recommended to consume cannabis in a form that does not require the inhalation of smoke.
What Kind of Licence Do You Need?
In order to produce and/or distribute medical grade cannabis to patients, you must have the proper licensing, as certain licences are designed for specific business activities.
For example, recreational cannabis sales are regulated at the provincial or territorial level, while medical grade cannabis is regulated by the federal government. This means that producing or selling recreational cannabis has different requirements than producing or selling medical grade cannabis.
In order to produce medical grade cannabis, you must obtain one of several cultivation licences, such as the Standard Cultivation Licence. However, while this licence does allow you to produce medical grade cannabis, it does not allow you to sell medical cannabis directly to patients. If you’d like to learn more about cultivating cannabis, consult this article.
Alternatively, if you wish to sell medical cannabis directly to patients, you must obtain the Sale For Medical Purposes Licence. With this licence, you can possess and sell cannabis for medical use. However, this licence does not allow you to produce your own cannabis.
Learn More About Medical Grade Cannabis with CLE
While medical grade cannabis has been legal in Canada since 1999, the number of registered patients has only started to increase dramatically within the last few years. As a result, there has never been a better time to become a licence holder or licenced retailer. The demand for both recreational and medical cannabis is high, and the market is growing every day.
That said, many are still not familiar with the specifics of the law, and will need assistance navigating the regulations. If you plan to cultivate or sell medical grade cannabis in the future, you will want to be prepared for the legal process. For more information on obtaining a cannabis cultivation licence or cannabis retail licence in Canada, consult the Cannabis License Experts today!