Article by David Brown, Lift News
Supply issues are well known in Canada’s medical cannabis program. While there are no overall product shortages across the system, the nature of the program that effectively limits a customer’s ability to ‘shop around’ combined with limited product availability in terms of specific products has left many patients frustrated.
While few producers ever run out of cannabis entirely, patients who seek specific strains or products, like high CBD dried flowers or oils, or other specific or rare or hard-to-grow strains for specific ailments, often have to go without or turn to the unregulated market for the same or similar products.
This is because while there are hundreds, possibly even thousands of strains and cannabis products available in this unregulated market, there are markedly less within Health Canada’s regulated medical cannabis. According to Health Canada, as of July 24, there were 220 dried cannabis products and 57 oil products available, in addition to other products like capsules, a spray, “clone products” and more. And while this is still a lot more options than many Canadians may be used to or familiar with, when trying to both compete with a black market as well as satisfy a need for a steady, cost effective and stable supply of medical cannabis, this discrepancy can mean the difference between an effective legal program and one that continues to struggle with it’s unregulated competitor.
Another side of this issue is how new licensed producers get access to the kinds of strains patients are demanding. As new producers come online to satisfy growing demand, with dozens more expected in the coming months, the question of how they get starting materials—plants and seeds—to grow the cannabis they seek to sell to Canadians can be a challenge.
The first option, importing starting material like seeds or clones from outside of Canada, is limited to a handful of countries with legal cannabis programs, and only a few LPs have so far successfully navigated that approach, going through Health Canada, Canadian Border services, the Canadian Food and Inspection agency, as well as these departments’ equivalents in the host country.
Last Fall, Health Canada said they were compiling a list of companies that LPs can potentially source genetics from, but this list currently only includes three companies (one in Spain, one in Germany and one in Columbia), one of which is owned by another LP. However, Health Canada says they have issued permits to LPs for four separate foreign companies in 2017.
“In addition to the 3 foreign companies that have been identified to date, Health Canada continues to work to identify and verify the legal standing of additional companies that may be able to provide cannabis starting materials (e.g., seeds, clones) for import to Canada,” Health Canada senior media relations advisor Tammy Jarbeau told Lift earlier this year.