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What's in Store for the Medical Cannabis Industry Once Recreational Marijuana Is Legalized?

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October 03, 2018 9:00 AM

What_s_in_Store_for_the_Medical_Cannabis_Industry_Once_Recreational_Marijuana_Is_LegalizedOne hot topic of discussion in 2018 has been the legalization of recreational marijuana in Canada. In June, the federal government passed the Cannabis Act. The new legislation is set to come into effect on October 17, 2018, and will make recreational cannabis legal across the country.

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A change on this scale has wide-reaching impacts, and many industries are preparing for legal cannabis. The insurance industry is now reviewing its policies about impaired driving and cannabis smoke damage in homes. The wellness industry has been keenly interested in medicinal marijuana as well.

One of the industries that may be most impacted by legalized marijuana is the medical cannabis industry. What’s in store for this industry as recreational cannabis becomes legal?


Medical Cannabis Is Still on the Books

Some experts suggested the government might decide to do away with the medical cannabis program after recreational cannabis became legal. Many people still think this is the way to go, and even some medical experts are calling for a phase-out of the medical cannabis program.

Most patients and medical experts, however, are working to preserve the medical cannabis program in Canada, even after legalization. They argue this program provides many benefits for patients. Forcing them to compete with recreational users could mean some people lose access to their medication.

Increased prices and market demand are the main concerns. Some patients may use products that aren’t in high demand on the recreational market. Recreational users may also pay higher prices, which could raise the price of medical cannabis even more.


Higher Prices Are Coming

Another issue the medical cannabis industry is facing is the issue of pricing. The government has decided to tax medical cannabis at the same rates as recreational cannabis. This means patients will end up paying even more for their authorizations than they already do. Many argue this is unfair as other pharmaceuticals are not taxed.

Since prices are already so high, many in the medical cannabis industry are calling on provincial governments to reconsider these policies. Many believe the provinces should offer coverage for medical marijuana as part of their provincial healthcare programs.


More Insurance Coverage

One positive thing happening in the medical marijuana industry has been an increase in private insurance coverage for cannabis. While this doesn’t replace public healthcare coverage nor is it accessible for everyone, it does offer some Canadians relief from high prices.

In February 2018, Sun Life announced they would begin covering medical marijuana as part of private drug coverage policies. Other major insurance companies are set to follow suit in the coming months.

Although these policies don’t cover recreational cannabis, they do point to shifting attitudes about medical marijuana, and cannabis more generally.


Teaming up for Awareness

Another major issue facing the medical cannabis industry is the continuing push for acceptance of cannabis as medicine. As more research comes to light, marijuana’s medical uses are becoming clearer. However, many people, including a fair number of medical professionals, are still resistant to the idea.

The medical cannabis industry will be challenged to continue spreading the word and communicating to the medical community, the research community, patients, and other stakeholders about the benefits of cannabis.

They’ll also need to take a role in educating patients about cannabis safety. Most players in the medical cannabis industry already understand this and make concerted efforts to help patients understand how to store and use their medication safely.


A Ban on Advertising

Another issue facing the medical cannabis industry is the restrictions on advertising, as stated in the Cannabis Act. Although the restrictions are designed for the recreational market, they will apply to the medical cannabis market as well. As a result, the medical cannabis industry will have some more difficulty communicating with patients and medical professionals.

The legalization of recreational marijuana is creating new challenges for the medical cannabis industry. One thing is clear, and it’s that the medical cannabis industry is here to stay.


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Topics: Compliance and Legalization

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