Following a similar trend in the United States, in recent years medical cannabis has become a much discussed and ever-evolving topic in Canada. Public support for medical marijuana in Canada has grown in recent times, as has the corresponding industry and market potential. Although Canada has provided legal access to medical marijuana since 1999, laws and regulations continue to change and develop. The latest set of regulations, the Access to Cannabis for Medicinal Purposes Regulations (ACMPR), were established in August 2016 and repealed and replaced the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR). The ACMPR allows for licensed producers to produce and sell cannabis products for medical use and allows individuals to grow their own cannabis for medical purposes. Since October 2018, recreational use of marijuana is also legal in Canada.
Not (yet) as thriving as expected
The number of people registered to use medical marijuana in Canada reached a plateau in the last quarter of 2018. Latest available figures show that, as of March 2022, there were around 248 thousand medical marijuana clients registered in Canada, nevertheless a high number compared to around 24 thousand registered as of June 2015. It is estimated that the total market size of medical marijuana in Canada in 2015 stood at some 40 million Canadian dollars and reached around 430 million dollars in 2022. However, projections for market growth were much higher, while now even a drop in market size is expected to be possible. This is, among other systemic barriers, mostly due to the small number of selling points and significantly higher prices in dispensaries compared to the black market.
Together with companies from the United States, Canadian companies are among the global leaders in the cannabis industry. Among the 10 leading cannabis-focused companies based on market capitalization (as of January 2023) are Canadian companies Tilray, Canopy Growth, Cronos Group, and Sundial Growers, while the rest is from the United States. Canada also plays a significant role when it comes to cannabis patents. Every tenth cannabis patent worldwide between 2001 and 2020 was filed in Canada. Besides the cannabis-focused, often still smaller companies, big pharma is also already involved in the cannabis business. Novartis, Pfizer, and Merck & Co., for example, are among the major cannabis patent holders in Canada.
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