Increased enrollment in Canada’s medical cannabis program has meant some patients are unable to find the kind of products they need.
Product shortages continue to frustrate many medical cannabis consumers, despite claims from Health Canada that there is a sufficient supply to meet patient demands.
As interest in Canada’s medical cannabis program continues to increase, concerns with supply have also been increasing. In January of this year, Lift first tackled the issue of product shortages, showing that many producers didn’t have specific products like high CBD varieties, oils, low THC options, and more.
While many producers at the time did still have a variety of products for sale, the inability of patients to effectively shop around between producers meant that if the producer or producers a patient was signed up with were out of a specific product, the person might just be out of luck until it came back into supply.
This supply issue continues to today, even as Health Canada has significantly increased its ability to process new applications and onboard new producers and production spaces; however, Health Canada claims that there are no shortages and that the issue is simply one of ‘preference’ for consumers between varieties.
“Health Canada is aware of reports of individuals who were not able to get their preferred product from their licensed producer,” wrote a Health Canada spokesperson to Lift. “However, based on market data, there is sufficient supply of cannabis for medical purposes to meet the current needs of registered clients.
“Health Canada recognizes that the demand for cannabis for medical purposes has been steadily increasing, with the number of clients registered with licensed producers growing at a rate of about 10% per month. Health Canada recently implemented operational changes to streamline licensing and enable increased production of cannabis for medical purposes. These changes will help ensure reasonable access for individuals who require cannabis for medical purposes. Health Canada will continue to regularly evaluate the medical cannabis program and make future adjustments where necessary.”
Market data scans, however, show that these shortages are not simply about ‘preference,’ as many producers still lack specific products like CBD-only options in dried flowers and cannabis oils, in addition to the various cannabis strains and the unique cannabinoid and terpene profiles they each offer. While most producers with a sales license may be offering some kind of product, not every medical cannabis user’s needs are necessarily served by these limited options.
While high THC options remain the most popular among patients, and therefore the most available from licensed producers, patients who require a high CBD strain are not always able to find what they need.
Enrollment in Health Canada’s medical cannabis program has almost doubled since the end of June 2016, from about 75,000 to almost 170,000 as of March 31 of this year. This means an increased demand on the 20-30 licensed producers currently able to sell cannabis.
A scan of available dried cannabis strains and cannabis oils from licensed producers between February and May of 2017 shows, for example, fewer than half of the producers carrying high CBD options in either dried flower or oils. The breakdown for 1:1 strains is similar. A 1:1 ratio strain is one with approximately the same percentage of THC and CBD, for example, 8% THC and 8% CBD.
Because patients cannot ‘shop around’ between multiple licensed producers without an individual doctors authorization for each producer, those who require a high CBD option in dried flower or oil, for example, are forced to either go without their medication, or to source from the under/unregulated black market.
These product shortfalls have lead some patients to speculate that licensed producers are ‘stockpiling‘ products in preparation for non-medical, recreational cannabis sales, largely because market data released by Health Canada shows product in storage.