ScienceWellness

A Look Into the Obstacles of the Medicinal Cannabis Industry

More than half a year post legalization, the Canadian cannabis industry continues to face large obstacles which are hindering the purchase of legal cannabis across the country. From supply shortages to difficulties opening the market to first-time users, licensed producers and retail stores are facing unforeseen challenges. The medicinal cannabis industry in particular faces significant and unique challenges. These challenges range from limitations to patients’ convenient purchasing ability to issues with the excise tax- both of which are topics for another day. At the heart of the medicinal cannabis issue remains the prominent fact that there is a lack of strong data and scientific evidence illustrating the medicinal affects of cannabis. 

Although many cannabis influencers, researchers, consumers, and doctors advocate for the medicinal uses of cannabis, skepticism still remains. Until research studies show tangible evidence of cannabis’ medicinal qualities, issues may continue to persist and affect markets.

That is why some North American-based licensed producers are beginning to invest time, money, and resources towards evidence-based clinical trials. These companies are not only pushing boundaries in the medical space, but they are differentiating themselves to consumers from a swath of other similar brands. 

Take for example Atlas Growers, a licensed producer based out of Alberta. Atlas Growers is setting an example for other licensed producers through their recent partnership with Harvard University. Calm Collectiv had the chance to sit down with Jim Hole, the Director of Cultivation at Atlas and a world renown horticulturist, to discuss this groundbreaking partnership and how partnerships like these are needed to move the cannabis industry forward. By partnering with Harvard University, Atlas Growers will be supplying cannabis products and funding for one of the largest global efforts in cannabis research. The double-blind clinical studies will focus on the medicinal effects of cannabis on neurological conditions and pain management. 

Tilray, a licensed producer based out of Toronto, is another great example of a licensed producer investing in clinical studies which could transform the medical cannabis industry. A few years ago Tilray partnered with The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto to study how children with a rare form of epilepsy respond to high-CBD medical cannabis. The initial findings are starting to slowly trickle out and the outcomes are “tremendously encouraging”, according to their news release. 

Finally, CanniMed, a licensed producer out of Saskatchewan, partnered with McGill University and Dalhousie University in 2015 to study the use of cannabis to help with pain management in patients with osteoarthritis in the knee. This was the first Health Canada approved medical marijuana clinical trial and paved the way for other studies in this area. This double-blind and placebo controlled study specifically looks at vaporized cannabis use in adults over 50, alternating the concentrations of THC and CBD to analyze pain and inflammation in patients. 

Although these are just some examples of great licensed producers moving the wheel, it illustrates that the medical cannabis industry has come a long way, but still has a long way to go.

Prior to recreational legalization, Canadians expected the cannabis market to break $4.34 billion in 2019 alone. Unfortunately, these optimistic forecasts were shortsighted for a myriad of factors (some stated above), but if licensed producers are able to provide well-grounded evidence that cannabis does in fact have a place in the medical marketplace (and supply shortages are fixed, among a variety of other issues), the cannabis industry could even exceed those 2019 targets. While concrete evidence from studies like these could take years, these trials are what is needed to transform the industry and break into new markets- both in consumers and across the globe.

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