The skyrocketing number of patients on the Canadian medical cannabis program is outstripping the capacity of the health system and the product supply to handle that surge in patient numbers, according to doctors who participate in the program.
One year ago, 250,000 patients were enrolled on the medical cannabis program. By the end of December 2018, the number had ballooned to 350,000. Current estimates put the number of patients in the program at more than 400,000. This surge is partially attributed to the legalization of recreational marijuana because this removed the stigma associated with cannabis.
However, this change in cannabis law has created challenges for physicians who prescribe medical marijuana, according to Dr. Sana-Ara Ahmed (a chronic pain specialist). According to Dr. Ahmed, many people no longer view marijuana as a medicine ever since it became available for recreational use.
During a cannabis summit in Calgary last week, Dr. Ahmed revealed that the number of patients registered to use medical marijuana is expected to hit a million by 2025. While patients have been enthusiastic about the program, the same cannot be said about physicians with just 5 percent of them prescribing medical marijuana.
Ahmed added that he is bothered by that discrepancy between the patient number and the number of physicians available to attend to those patients. He would wish to see more physicians understanding the cannabinoid system in the human body and how that system interacts with marijuana.
This discussion has been stifled by the decades of prohibition, and the hangover of that era still lingers. To compound matters, the ongoing shortage of marijuana on the legal market has also affected the medical side and doctors have to deal with the frustration of knowing that the best products, such as dried marijuana flower and CBD oil, aren’t available and yet that’s what would give patients the best results.
Dr. Ahmed also says the supply shortage isn’t all the doctors have to deal with. Many times, they are compelled to prescribe less medical marijuana than a patient requires simply because the cost of the right amount of cannabis is prohibitive for many of those patients. He cites the example of the patients who aren’t working and rely on disability support.
The black market appears to have stepped up to address some of those gaps. One operator of an illegal cannabis operation revealed that he has been serving patients in Calgary who cannot get what they need from the licensed dispensaries. He even works out arrangements to help those who cannot afford to pay for the medical marijuana that they need.
Hemptown USA and Green Hygienics Holdings Inc. (OTCQB: GRYN) hope that the Canadian government does more to address the bottlenecks preventing the medical cannabis program from serving patients fully.
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