Number of medical marijuana users has quadrupled since Liberals won election
Meredith MacLeod, CTVNews.ca
Published Tuesday, March 14, 2017 10:00PM EDT
Data obtained by CTV News shows the number of Canadians registered to use medical marijuana has soared from 30,000 to nearly 130,000 since Justin Trudeau became prime minister, after campaigning on a promise to legalize the drug.
In the month before the October 2015 election, 30,357 people had prescriptions to use the drug, according to figures from Health Canada.
That number more than quadrupled to 129,876 by December 2016.
“I think it's really gaining momentum. We're seeing the same thing. We're seeing growth in the industry of 10 to 15 per cent per month," said Derek Ogden, CEO of National Access Cannabis.
As police in Canada’s biggest cities shut down unregulated pot dispensaries, many are obtaining the drug legally by seeking prescriptions from doctors at clinics so they can register with Health Canada.
Some of those clinic doctors never meet their patients in person -- they communicate via Skype video conferencing.
Patients then get their pot in the mail.
“You do see across Canada a number of clinics opening up that charge money to sign people up with licensed producers,” said pot activist Jodie Emery.
She and her husband Marc Emery were arrested last week at Toronto’s Pearson airport and charged with drug trafficking, conspiracy and possession. The couple is accused of selling marijuana to people without prescriptions.
Search warrants were executed at the couple’s Cannabis Culture dispensaries in Toronto, Hamilton and Vancouver, leading to three more arrests.
The couple’s bail conditions prohibit them from using illegal marijuana. If they want the drug, they would need to find a doctor willing to write a prescription.
If recreational pot smokers are gaming the system to get their marijuana legally, Health Canada says it’s not getting involved.
"The decision .... rests between the patient and health professional," Health Minister Jane Philpott’s office said.
The medical pot industry says the sharp increase in numbers of prescription holders is due to better-informed physicians and patients about the benefits of marijuana in treating a wide range of ailments, including pain, nausea, seizures and anxiety.
“This is getting much more known to people and much more respected," said Colette Rivet of the Canadian Cannabis Association.
The federal government has said it will introduce legalization legislation this spring, but it’s unknown how long it would actually take for such a bill to become law.
With a report from CTV’s Glen McGregor in Ottawa