There are more than 260,000 medical cannabis patients in Canada alone. And in an effort to help connect industry leaders, medical disruptors and tech innovators the Business of Cannabis held their inaugural Medical Cannabis Week in Toronto last week. Here are five things we learned from MCW.
- Do Not Underestimate the Passion of Patients and Practitioners
The patients and their doctors that have driven the industry to this point in Canada are not to be underestimated. While nearly all of the conversation in Canada for the past year has been the fast-track to adult use cannabis legalization, patients have their eye on a different ball. For them, finding medicine that works, keeping that medicine available and affordable is paramount. Doctors also have a different view - they are looking to educate their colleagues about the possibilities of medical cannabis. Dr. Michael Verbora of Canobo Clinics noted during the kick-off event of Medical Cannabis Week that doctors take an oath to first do no harm and he would like to doctors to start recommending medical that does no harm - unlike opioids.
- Attacking the Barriers for Doctors to Prescribe is Critical
Only a small fraction of doctors in Canada have ever recommended cannabis to their patients. Barriers toward getting more doctors on board are varied - but several came up again and again during Medical Cannabis Week. Product variation - right now, only dry flower and oils are available to patients in Canada. Most doctors do not want their patients smoking anything. As more varied product forms become available to patients, doctors may be more likely to prescribe. The second is dosing. Doctors like to prescribe specific dosing of specific products for specific ailments. Right now, because of the limited form factors of medical cannabis, this is difficult for doctors. Finally, as stigma drives down among Canadians - patients are likely to push their doctors - and seek out doctors who are accepting to medical cannabis. Patients move mountains - see #1.
- Licensed Producers (LPs) Focused on Patient Education and Engagement Will Win
Medical Cannabis Week featured partnership from Licensed Producers who are keeping a focus on medical cannabis. The industry is going to change dramatically in the coming months and years as adult use cannabis becomes legal in Canada and elsewhere. But focusing on patient and education and engagement is the only sure-thing LPs have right now. LPs have their patient base right now - making sure those 5 or 50,000 patients are satisfied and engaged is critical to LP success.
- Canada has a Chance to Lead
Dr. Anne Snowdon of the World Health Innovation Network described how the Canadian medical system may be the system best set up to track, trace and monitor the efficacy of medical cannabis on a grand scale. As such, research, development and innovation has a chance to thrive here ahead of the rest of the world. Meaning that Canada has a unique opportunity to lead in medical cannabis - and that is something Canadians - from government to corporate to NGOs - should celebrate and embrace.
- Taxes, Distribution and Insurance - OH MY!
The medical cannabis space is large in Canada - with over 260,000 patients - but issues remain. Having an excise tax applied to medical cannabis makes access even more expensive and should be done away with. How medical cannabis is distributed is likely to evolve - as no other medical drug is distributed direct from drug company to patient like LPs distributed direct to patients. And importantly, as the industry and products develop, insurance companies are likely to cover cannabis more fully.
And an added bonus:
- The Canadian Medical Association is Dead Wrong…
Recently, the Canadian Medical Association noted that there belief was that once adult use cannabis was available in Canada - the need for doctors to prescribe to patients would be eliminated. This is dead wrong. More and more Canadian patients - over 260,000 at last count - are seeking therapy from medical cannabis today. That number will grow considerably in the coming years - placing the Canadian Medical Association on the wrong side of history, of patient care and of common sense.