Medical marijuana applications up, approvals slow from Health Canada

The Canadian Press
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Marijuana clone plants that are used to grow medical marijuana are displayed under a light in this Canadian Press file photo.

OTTAWA — The number of Canadian firms applying for lucrative medical marijuana licences has topped 1,000, as a so-called “greenrush” continues to overwhelm Health Canada.

So far, only two new licences have been approved this summer even as the department tightens the application rules — and as nervous investors await decisions on their multimillion-dollar bids.

Health Canada says that as of Aug. 25, it had received 1,009 formal licence applications to grow medical weed since a call for proposals was issued last year, with 462 returned as incomplete, 201 rejected and 32 withdrawn.

That still leaves almost 300 applications being assessed.

Some 13 licensed producers are actively providing medical marijuana to patients, while another nine Health Canada-approved producers are about to market their products.

Just two new licences were issued in the last three months, raising questions among applicants about why the department’s approval process is so slow.

In July, Health Canada tightened the rules for prospective producers, increasing some security requirements to ensure inventories of medical marijuana were stored in secure facilities.

A spokesman for the department says the new restrictive rules have not affected the approval process.

“The increased security requirements have not had an impact on the processing of active applications,” said Gary Scott Holub in an email.

Even so, some applicants say the move appears to be aimed at smaller players, to discourage them from applying. And some still-unapproved firms are under pressure from their impatient investors, who have leased buildings, hired staff and paid legal fees with no returns in sight.

“Everybody is just living in fear” of having their applications rejected, said one insider. “It’s a pressure-cooker ready to blow.”

Health Canada radically changed the rules for medical marijuana on April 1, to end home-grown weed production in favour of commercial products under a new licensing system.

The department expects the new regime will create a private industry eventually worth some $1.3 billion in sales annually with perhaps half a million customers. Some applicants want to position themselves in the medical-marijuana market for the day when recreational cannabis may become legal.

As of August, some 9,448 clients had registered under the new system to order medical marijuana from the newly licensed commercial producers.

The issue of marijuana has become a hot potato politically, as Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau calls for legalization of recreational marijuana, and the Conservatives oppose the move, saying it would only increase use, especially among youth.

At the same time, Justice Minister Peter MacKay has said the government is examining whether police should issue tickets for possession of marijuana rather than clogging the courts with criminal cases.

Health Canada has imposed no limits on the number of licensed producers.

An estimated 500,000 Canadians use marijuana for medical purposes, though most do not obtain it through Health Canada-approved suppliers.

Organizations: Health Canada, New licensing system.The department, Conservatives

Geographic location: OTTAWA

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  • Chris
    September 03, 2014 - 22:36

    The problem we have in PEI with medical marijuana, is that next to no doctors will sign for it... It's a very easy process now, under the new program, to become a legal patient.. But, from what I've gathered, there's only 1 doctor on the island who will sign.. And there were rumours of him retiring this summer? My doc would rather me remain on very deadly narcotics, that use marijuana, which helps me a LOT more than all the pills... On pot, I don't need to take any pills at all, and I'm a perfectly functioning member of society... Without it, I take 16 pills a day for my back... I am not a functioning member of society.. I'm in a haze all day, I can't work, I have to lay down or sit, because it barely helps with my pain.. And it's killing my liver as I've been on it for like 9 years now..

  • don
    September 02, 2014 - 09:33

    what are they going to do when the government decides to tell you all the weed is more dangerous the smokes? have fun when your brain cells, and you have more lung trouble.

    • SomeSense
      September 02, 2014 - 15:30

      I don't follow what you are saying at all? The gov already says weed is more dangerous than smokes don't they? If they don't why make it illegal? do you partake in alcohol maybe that has eroded your brain to the point you make sense. Weed doesn't kill brain cells any more than carbon dioxide, the only study to show any such thing has been discredited as they were smoking monkeys out in an insane manner and it was the lack of oxygen that was the issue not the weed smoke, there is also some studies that say weed promotes brain cell growth. Regardless get a vaporizer far more effective and no lung trouble. I am for freedom and think any substance should be legal for your own personal use what you do while on said substance is a different story. If only one can be legal I would take the weed over tobacco society would be better off