Article by Terry Reith, CBC News
Medical marijuana consumers in Prague rang in 2018 with a new Canadian import, Tilray Milled Cannabis, a high THC marijuana product grown on Vancouver Island.
The Czech Republic is just the latest nation to sell Canadian weed, joining Germany, Australia, New Zealand and a growing list of other nations which are turning to Canada as a safe and legal source for medical grade cannabis.
In recent months, more than a dozen countries have legalized medical marijuana. New laws are pending in at least a dozen more as national regulators and even the World Health Organization recognize legitimate medical uses for a drug which had long been banned under international treaties.
The moves have sparked an unprecedented demand for legally grown, high quality marijuana, as well as the oil which is extracted from it. Seven Canadian producers have been granted licences to export the crop. By the end of March they will have sent 528 kilograms of dried cannabis flower and 911 litres of oil overseas. That may well be just an initial trickle, as the floodgates open on an international medical cannabis market.
“I’ve never experienced anything like this,” says Ranjeev Dhillon, a corporate lawyer and partner at the law firm Bennett Jones. Most of his practice now centres on the cannabis export business.
“I think it means that we’ll be a global player,” he says, stressing this is a positive development for the Canadian economy. “This could be our opportunity to be viewed the same as we are in mining or hockey. We’ll be world class and be world leaders and I think that will stay to be the case for a very, very long time.”
Medical research forcing an end to prohibition
For decades an international ban on the production and use of cannabis kept to a minimum any legitimate research into potential medical uses. Prohibition ensured that marijuana cultivation stayed in the hands of illegal growers, and distribution was limited to the criminal underground.
But many users saw value in cannabis as treatment for a variety of conditions, ranging from controlling epileptic seizures to pain relief to stress control.
Israeli scientist Raphael Mechoulam began limited research on the drug in the early 1960s, which led to the discovery of the human endocannabinoid system. By the mid-1990s, scientists determined that cannabinoid receptors play a vital role in the function of the human body. For the first time synthetic cannabinoid derivatives were approved for medical use, primarily for the treatment of nausea and wasting syndrome.
At the same time anecdotal evidence was building to suggest cannabis could have other, more widespread medical uses. Patients who claimed benefits from cannabis went to court seeking the right to use marijuana as medicine without facing the risk of criminal prosecution.
In 2000 the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled that Terry Parker, a man with severe epilepsy, should have the right to use marijuana to moderate his severe seizures.