While the U.S. was abuzz about healthcare exchanges today, its northern neighbor kicked off a dramatic expansion of the country's medical marijuana marketplace.
Canada has begun the transition from homegrown pot production to large licensed farms that will produce a standardized product. Mounties and health inspectors will certify the product for health and safety. The market size is estimated to be approximately US$ 1.3 billion, PBS says. Farms, including one that's ironically located on the site of a shuttered Hershey's candy factory, could eventually serve upwards of 450,000 patients.
The Canadian government has set a price of $7.60 per gram of dried bud, but medical marijuana program participants will only pay $5. Taxpayers subsidize the difference, according to the Canadian health system's very exacting regulations. These regulations ensure a consistent product that isn't harmful to sickly people.
It should not be confused that Canada is a haven for cannabis consumption. Medical marijuana legislation that would have decriminalized possession failed several times over the past decade, and conservatives twice proposed mandatory jail time for large growers and traffickers. The illegal trade of cannabis is estimated to be a multi-billion dollar illicit industry, and it has not modified its criminal code or laws.
Medical professionals and academic researchers worldwide are challenging the criminal stigma. A recent study demonstrated efficacy as painkiller while removing the "high," and progress has been made in finding new ways to limit dependence.
Celebrity neurosurgeon Dr. Sanjay Gupta drew major headlines advocating for broader medical marijuana use in August. Maybe Canada is just ahead of the curve.
(image credits: marijuana.com, Wikipedia)
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