Article by Thomson Reuters via CBC News
Canopy Growth Corp., one of the world’s biggest medical marijuana producers, now wants to take on the world’s pharmaceutical giants.
The Canadian firm launched Canopy Health Innovation in late 2016 to build a portfolio of patented and federally approved cannabinoid-based medicines. The venture is one of a small but growing number of companies here aiming to compete with established drugs treating diseases ranging from anxiety and chronic pain to multiple sclerosis and childhood epilepsy.
They’re developing research-backed formulations to be sold as pills, inhalers, solutions and creams, with the goal of convincing doctors and insurers to embrace marijuana as a mainstream medicine.
“You’ll see a lot of companies like Canopy Health starting to form, and they’re basically going to create medical cannabis 2.0,” Canopy Health chief executive Marc Wayne said in an interview. “There is a gold rush for cannabis intellectual property, and it’s accelerating.”
Canada’s relaxed regulations, mature marijuana industry and free-flowing capital offer such firms a unique opportunity to advance research without the legal and political risks that bog down cannabis firms in the United States and elsewhere.
While U.S. federal law continues to ban weed in all forms, Canada approved medical pot in 2001 and will legalize recreational use this year. Its government welcomes and even finances the research and clinical trials needed to fully legitimize medical cannabis.
Canada is also one of only two nations – along with the Netherlands – that currently exports marijuana, allowing firms here to take immediate advantage of recent medical pot legalizations in more than 20 countries. Research firm Brightfield Group last year forecast the global medical cannabis market would quadruple to $31.4 billion US by 2021.
Offerings in today’s Canada medical marijuana market differ little from those used recreationally – the smokable plant and, more recently, oil extracts. More than 70 companies have licences from the federal drug regulator, Health Canada, to cultivate, produce and sell medical marijuana, with more than half those licences granted in 2017 or 2018.