The founder of an online community for medical cannabis users is encouraging them to switch from companies she believes have prioritized supplying recreational cannabis users over medical patients.
Ashleigh Brown started the Facebook group SheCann in June 2017 to help women navigate Canada's complex legal medical cannabis regime. The community now has almost 2,500 members, and Brown observed many of them reporting difficulty obtaining their medication in the months leading up to the legalization of non-medical cannabis.
Since legalization, problems have included "(supply) not being there, issues with shipping and delays, (cannabis) strains cropping up in the recreational provincial stores online or in the physical storefronts that hadn't been available to medical users for months," Brown said.
She saw that phenomenon first-hand when she visited a newly opened recreational cannabis store in her home province of Manitoba and observed certain kinds of cannabis for sale she said had been unavailable to medical users for some time.
Specifically, Brown identified four licensed cannabis producers as having let down medical cannabis users: Tilray, Canopy Growth, Aurora, and Peace Naturals.
But among the 36 Canadian companies licensed to sell medical cannabis, 28 still have the same amount of stock, or more, Brown said, lauding companies such as CanniMed, Emblem, WeedMD, Organigram, Green Relief, Hydropothecary and Emerald Health for maintaining a steady supply of CBD oil, a much sought-after product among many medical cannabis users, along with other varieties of cannabis.
Now easier to switch medical cannabis suppliers
Under Health Canada's medical cannabis system, patients authorized to use marijuana must register directly with a government-licensed cannabis firm and order only from that company. (Some patients split their cannabis authorization across multiple producers.)
Before the enactment of the Cannabis Act on Oct. 17, switching from one producer to another required a new authorization from a health-care practitioner. (This authorization is called a "medical document" in Health Canada lingo.)
But new regulations that took effect on Oct. 17 make it much simpler for patients to switch. Now, medical cannabis users can call up their current licensed producer and request that their medical document be transferred directly to a different licensed producer without requiring any intervention from the doctor who originally wrote the authorization.
The change in the new regulations empowers people to vote with their wallet, as patients, said Brown.
"So they don't have to stay with these (licensed producers) if they're not being provided with access to the medications they need," she said.
"They now have more options than ever."
'Actions speak louder than words'
Of the four licensed cannabis producers identified by Brown as suffering from medical cannabis supply issues surrounding legalization, two replied to requests for comment from The Leaf News.
In an email, Tilray spokesperson Chrissy Roebuck wrote that the company saw a surge and increase in orders from medical patients ahead of adult-use legalization that the company did not anticipate. She acknowledged its current supply of medical cannabis is limited, but said Tilray is "actively releasing more products on a regular basis."
"Our team is working diligently behind the scenes to expedite the production process while adhering to our standards of quality and excellence," wrote Roebuck. "We're committed to serving our patients and providing the highest-quality medical cannabis products."
Canopy Growth Corp. communications manager Caitlin O'Hara wrote that the company does not have a shortage of medical products. She highlighted Canopy's commitment to absorbing the federal excise tax for medical cannabis users, and said the company's Spectrum line of medical cannabis will never be offered on the recreational market.
"We guarantee Spectrum products are always available for patients in need," she said. "Currently, on our medical site, we have over 23 products listed and available for medical customers.
"We began as a medical cannabis company here in Canada and are now a global medical cannabis company — we always have and will continue to prioritize the needs of our medical patients."
Aurora and Peace Naturals did not respond to requests for comment.
For her part, Brown said actions speak louder than words.
"Those companies that have prepared for recreational legalization by ensuring that they will continue to have dedicated strains for medical products are not suffering in this way," she said.
"(People) are often willing to forgive one mistake, but when they look at the track record of companies that are celebrating their recreational sales, they're not convinced or comforted by that."