When recreational cannabis use was approved across Canada in October, some business leaders wondered if legalization sounded the death knell for medical marijuana.
Most experts in the medical and research sectors seem to be answering with a resounding “no.”
“Unless I’ve misinterpreted thousands of pieces of feedback from our patients on its benefits, medical cannabis is here to stay,” says Vic Neufeld, CEO of Leamington, ON-based Aphria. The company has supplied medical cannabis to approximately 50,000 registered patients – including about 30,000 active users—and has added between 600 and 700 new patients each week.
“I think we will still see true medical patients that need to have a nurse practitioner or a physician involved in their care, maybe a pharmacist as well for drug interactions,” says Terry Lake, vice president of corporate social responsibility for Hydropothecary. “They may need different formulations at different times of day, so I think there will always be a true medical market.
Medical cannabis is a hot topic, not just for individuals living with brain tumors, but for those affected by any type of cancer, says Dr. Lynda Balneaves, president of the Society for Integrative Oncology. She points to research that’s been done in Canada focusing on the role of medical cannabis for arthritis pain and spinal cord injury, and for addressing PTSD in veterans.
Anthony Wile—the former CEO and co-founder of PharmaCielo Ltd.—says he expects that Canada will continue to be a leader in medicinal and scientific cannabis in the burgeoning global marketplace. According to Wile, the country’s establishment of a highly regulated, national medical cannabis industry now serves as a blueprint for other nations.
“Working with Colombia’s leading medical school, for example, PharmaCielo contributed to the development of academic certification programs for medical practitioners on the science and application of cannabis-based treatments to the patient community,” says Wile. “This contribution also included sponsorship of significant research studies on the application of cannabis as a medical treatment.”
Wile says researchers are really starting to line up strain elements with medical conditions, “something that’s really been lacking and has really only existed in anecdotal evidence form.”
Canada already has already partnered with Jamaica to work with world-renowned scientist Dr. Henry Lowe, whose medicinal product is recognized by as an orphan drug by the FDA, which is unusual for a cannabis-based drug.
Forbes reports that if clinical trials of Lowe’s drug have a positive impact on acute myeloid leukemia, the Canadian-Jamaican partnership (JMCC) will be recognized as a major player in the industry and garner Canada a position at the top.
As the medical cannabis industry matures, patients will begin to truly see what cannabis and its complex genetics can offer, says Liam McGreevy, CEO of Ethnopharm, a European cannabis company specializing in genetics and distribution.
According to McGreevy, scientists are beginning to better understand the effects of the various cannabinoids and terpenes, their synergistic effect, and how their impact links to the individual’s genetics or biomarkers.
“This data is key to understanding the most effective combinations and strengths for various conditions, moving towards targeted personalized medicines,” McGreevey says. “With further research, the full potential of the plant will soon be fully unraveled.”