By Eli McVey
Canada’s medical marijuana program continues to surge, with 30,000-plus patients enrolling last quarter to boost the total count over 200,000.
That marks three straight years of quarter-over-quarter patient growth for the program and a 168% increase from just one year ago.
To put these figures in perspective, the number of registered MMJ patients in Canada sits just below Michigan – the second-largest U.S. medical marijuana market in terms of patient counts – though it will likely surpass the state before the end of 2017.
Growth in the number of Canadian MMJ patients corresponds with the rise of large, federally licensed marijuana producers in the country, which began selling MMJ directly to registered patients by mail in 2014.
Because Canada’s MMJ industry is regulated at the federal level, the country’s 58 licensed marijuana producers operate in a relatively stable legal environment – allowing these businesses to raise significant amounts of capital and grow to a size and scale not seen in the United States.
That’s made marijuana much more available in the country.
Some believe that patients are taking advantage of the liberal list of qualifying MMJ conditions to legally acquire cannabis for recreational purposes. Others, however, attribute the rise in patients to increased awareness of the potential medicinal uses of marijuana among both the general public and physicians.
In any case, patient counts are expected to keep climbing well into the future. Health Canada originally estimated the number of medical marijuana registrations would hit 425,000 by 2024, which – considering the program’s current growth trajectory – could prove to be much too conservative.
But impending adult-use legalization in Canada – scheduled to take effect in July 2018 – will affect the medical market, though to what extent remains to be seen.
While patient counts increased by 20% in the second quarter of 2017, it’s the second consecutive quarter where the rate of growth has slowed on a percentage basis.
Some of this may stem from potential patients choosing not to register for the MMJ program, holding out instead for rec legalization or continuing to buy from the black market.
It’s too soon to draw such conclusions, however, because it’s natural for growth rates to slow over time – especially in a program of this size.
Eli McVey can be reached at eli[email protected]
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