CANNABIS CULTURE – As Health Canada begins issuing licenses for its new medical marijuana program, which has come under fire from patients across the country, several companies are preparing to cash in on an industry that could be worth billions.
Last week, Health Canada added the first name to their “list of authorised licensed producers” of medicine as part of their Marihuana for Medical Purposes (MMPR) system.
The company, CanniMed Ltd., is a subsidiary of Prairie Plant Systems (PPS), the controversial business that has maintained a 13-year monopoly over the Canadian medical marijuana industry thanks to an exclusive government contract.
As part of Health Canada’s new MMPR system, all personal cultivation and residential home-growing of medical marijuana will be banned as of April 1, 2014, forcing patients to order their medicine through the mail from one of the government-approved producers or turn to the black market.
PPS’s has a reputation in cannabis community as a producer of bunky, potentially dangerous marijuana, and has been criticized for being less than honest with its customers.
According to a press release from the company, it was given two licenses from Health Canada – one for PPS and the other for CanniMed.
A new company, MediJean announced in an October 1 press release that they have been awarded a “rarely-granted exemption” that “provides an early-start option for serious Licensed Producer (LP) applicants.”
“This exemption puts our company on a strong R&D track right out of the gate,” said Anton Mattadeen, Chief Strategy Officer for MediJean. “We began this venture with the goal of building a credible company in an industry undergoing rapid change worldwide. The challenge now is to erase the deep-rooted stigma associated with street-sourced medical marijuana by providing safe, high quality products delivered within an exceptional patient client experience.”
The companies claim they will produce “pharmaceutical-grade” cannabis, but don’t actually define the term anywhere.
“The clear difference with our approach is we’re not re-labeling questionable street marijuana as medical marijuana,” Mattadeen said. “With well over 500 known strains on the existing grey market, we know our method of sourcing, selecting and cultivating only the best plant genetics, coupled with our comprehensive quality assurance controls throughout our production processes, will set us apart and result in superior medicine choices for our patients.”
Another press release from the company entitled MediJean Underlines the Difference Between “Street Pot” and Medical Marijuana, released today, makes similar claims.
The production of commercial medical marijuana in Canada has been dominated for 13 years by PPS, and their cannabis has come under fire for containing biological impurities and heavy metals. Their pot has also been irradiated with gamma rays, and has been described by patients as a ground-up mix of buds, leaves and stalk that is “weak” and “disgusting”.
Another company who has applied to Health Canada but has not yet received a license, Tweed Inc., made headlines in recent days after announcing plans to open a medical marijuana growing facility in a former Hershey chocolate factory in Smiths Falls, Ontario.
“It’s an exciting opportunity,” Tweed’s vice president of community engagement Mark Zekulin told the press. “There is a demand and there’s good opportunity in this market.”
The Canadian Press reports that “156 firms have applied for lucrative producer and distributor status since June,” and that “Health Canada is placing no limits on the number of these new capital-intensive facilities.”
Others hopeful license applicants have made their intentions clear to the press and community.
Health Canada’s new system has come under harsh criticism from many in the cannabis community, including by lawyers and others experts, who say the new system will be be far too expensive for the average medical marijuana patient to afford.
Prices for grams are expected to be $9 to $12 a gram to start, with Health Canada projecting prices at an average of $7.60 by next year. Producers will be allowed to set prices without any interference from the government.
Federal estimates expected the industry to bring in $1.3 billion in revenue by 2024.
Cannabis Culture contacted the companies listed in this article for comment, but has not yet received a call back from any of them. We will keep trying.
Watch CC for more in-depth information on Canada’s new MMPR system and licensed companies as we dig it up.