While the U.S. government teeters precariously on the edge of complete shutdown, hinging on a hyperbole-ridden argument over whether or not its citizens deserve proper basic health care, their neighbors to the north in Canada are on the verge of another revolutionary leap in government-backed healthcare reform.Starting tomorrow, the Canadian government will begin to pump $1.3-billion dollars into its Health Canada program, earmarked specifically to prop up large-scale free market medical marijuana growing operations across the country, in a move that is expected to create not only jobs and revenues, but hundreds of thousands of new medical marijuana patients as well.
In 2007, there were 422 medical marijuana patients in all of Canada. Health Canada reports that as of today, there are 37,400 registered medical marijuana patients in the entire country. By 2024, that number is estimated to rise 10-fold, to over 450,000, and they have Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative government to thank for it, as his party attempts to counter popular recreational pot legalization rhetoric coming from Trudeau and the Liberal Party.
Previously, Canada’s makeshift experiment of a medical marijuana program relied on a loose government-regulated network of 4200 registered growers, each of whom was only allowed to grow for a maximum of two patients. As with most budding pot laws, there were loopholes large enough to lead a herd of moose (mooses? meese?) through, and soon the Mounties were complaining that the lax law was shielding illegal grow ops and criminal activity.
The new plan, to be phased in completely between now and March 31st, 2014, will pump over a billion bucks into huge, state-of-the-art indoor marijuana growing facilities, many of which are staffed and in operation already. The new mega-farms will be certified and monitored by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and Health Canada, and will grow, harvest, package and distribute countless varieties of high grade marijuana, all literally under one roof. Distribution will be handled via a delivery by a secure courier, and bags of this new government ganja are expected to land on patients’ doorsteps in the next few weeks.
Over the course of the next six months, as the new plan is implemented, those who feel that they may qualify as a medical marijuana patient are being encouraged to contact Health Canada to obtain information about registering under the new guidelines. Of course, in six months a whole lot of darn good growers will be banned from legally growing and selling their cannabis from home, so the black market is sure to see some reaction to the new flood of government bud.
There are no shortage of groups and individuals who are looking to get in on the $1.3-billion dollar spending spree, and so far, over 150 applications have been filed for producer/distributor status. The first two were approved and officially licensed just last week.
On one end of the spectrum, you have a man like Chuck Rifici, and his company Tweed Inc. Rifici is a senior advisor to Justin Trudeau and the Liberal party, yet he sees the opportunity under the new law. As such, he has applied for his own license, with hopes of turning an abandoned Hershey’s Chocolate factory in Smith Falls, Ontario, into a Willy Wonka-esque weed warehouse.
Rifici plans to grow at least 20 strains, with 10% of his yield held back each harvest to help impoverished patients receive low-cost medication.
On the other end is British Columbia’s Eric Nash, an experienced and successful grower since 2002, when he was licensed into the old system. Seeing his relatively small-scale grow op, and his livelihood, being threatened by the new law, Nash hopes that his background and previous participation will grant him access to what he sees as a significant opportunity in the industry.
Nash was quoted as saying, “We’ll see a lot of moving and shaking within the industry, with companies positioning. And I think we’ll see some mergers and acquisitions, strategic alliances formed. It’ll definitely yield benefits to the consumers and certainly for the economy and society in general.”
So, the politician is preaching about compassion, the farmer is shifting his paradigm to think outside the box, the Conservatives are growing weed, and the Liberals are trying to outdo them with full legalization.
Oh Canada, wouldn’t it be nice to be strapped with your political predicaments here in America.
A few facts about medical marijuana in Canada:
- Current number of medical marijuana users approved by Health Canada: 37,359, up from 477 in 2002
- Number of patients with personal licenses to grow marijuana for themselves: 25,600 (ends March 31, 2014) Number of growers licensed to produce marijuana for a maximum of two patients each: 4,200 (ends March 31, 2014)
- Current number of entrepreneur applications to grow medical marijuana under new rules allowing larger facilities: 156
- Health Canada’s current price for medical marijuana produced under contract: $5 a gram (government sales end March 31, 2014)
- Health Canada’s projection of profitable private sector price in 2014 after the new free-market kicks in: $7.60
- Projection of average price as market matures in several years: $8.80 Advertised price of products of CannaMed, the first licensed distributor in the new system: $9 to $12 a gram
- Current estimated cost of black-market dried marijuana purchased on the street: $10 to $15 a gram
- Projected total additional cost to all approved patients as a result of the new system: $166 million a year for 10 years
- Health Canada projection of number of approved medical marijuana patients in 2014: up to 58,000
- Projection of number of patients by 2024: Up to 450,000
- Sales projections for the new industry by 2024: $1.3 billion a year