Medical Patients Should Come First if There is a Marijuana Shortage, Says Patient Advocate

Article by Jacquie Miller, Ottawa Citizen

Medical patients should come first if there is a marijuana shortage, says patient advocate With a nationwide shortage a distinct possibility when Canada legalizes pot for recreational use, Health Canada says it expects growers to give priority to medical patients who rely on the drug for everything from chronic pain to insomnia. Jacquie Miller, Ottawa CitizenJACQUIE MILLER, OTTAWA CITIZEN . A master grower checks out plants at the Tweed medical marijuana plant in Smiths Falls. The company plans to expand into the recreational market, but says priority for sales will be given to medical patients. JULIE OLIVER / OTTAWA CITIZEN

An advocate for medical marijuana users says patients are concerned their supply is going to be pinched by the looming demand for recreational weed.

It’s a worry sparked by an inconvenient truth: if Canada legalizes recreational marijuana, as planned, by next summer, there probably won’t be enough pot to go around.

Health Canada says it expects growers to give priority to medical patients who rely on cannabis for everything from chronic pain to insomnia.

But an organization representing medical marijuana patients says the government needs a policy to ensure that happens or sick people might be at risk when the market opens up to a flood of social users.

“It’s important that these products continue to be available as we head into legalization,” said Jonathan Zaid, executive director of Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana, an education and advocacy organization. He said he hears from patients who are worried.

“It’s concerning that there is no specific supply guarantee for medical cannabis patients. We are really advocating for Health Canada as well as the industry to ensure that the medical market is fully supplied, to ensure patients have reliable, consistent access.”

Private growers licensed by Health Canada to sell to medical users will also supply the recreational pot market. Many growers are expanding as fast as they can. Health Canada is approving licences more quickly: the department streamlined the procedure for obtaining them and hired more staff.

Still, some analysts say there won’t be enough marijuana for everyone by July 2018, when the federal government has promised recreational pot will be legal.

Zaid says medical patients already have trouble obtaining what they need. Health Canada says that, overall, there is enough medical marijuana available. However, growers can run out of particular strains or products, Zaid said.

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