What will happen to medical marijuana in Canada if the Conservatives win?
QUESTION: “As a follow up to last week’s question, what do you think will happen to medical marijuana in Canada if the Conservatives win the federal election in October?”
J.G. from Canada
ANSWER: Because the Conservatives are so anti-cannabis, I think they will take some steps. But I do not think they will cancel what has been done. Several Conservatives have made this promise including leader Andrew Scheer and Shadow Health Minister Marilyn Gladu. Under the Conservatives, I believe both medical and recreational cannabis will remain legal.
If the Conservatives do not feel they can stop it, I think they will try to do the next best things. They will slow it down. Here are some ways I can imagine that happening.
The Liberals explained cannabis legalization as a way to prevent young people from accessing cannabis, reduce the numbers of Canadians getting criminal records for possessing small amounts and to stop the money from the sale of illegal cannabis from flowing to organized crime. Who knows how a new Conservative government might change this set of goals? For example, they may add a desire to halt the widespread use of cannabis for the untested and unproven treatment of certain medical needs.
I think they will make medical cannabis less available to Canadian adults. In the same way that you cannot just walk into a pharmacy and get certain drugs without a prescription, I think the Conservatives will try the same with cannabis with a complicated set of rules and regulations.
I think the Conservatives might make it more difficult to access certain strains of cannabis to deal with specific needs. For a drug to be approved for general use there is a long, expensive and arduous process by the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S. and Health Canada in Canada. A Conservative government might decide that medical cannabis cannot be used until there has been more scientific evidence provided that cannabis works and is safe.
I expect approval of new regulations will be more rigorous and take much longer under the Conservatives. For example, cannabis edibles are scheduled to become legal under regulations on Thursday October 17, 2019 and the election is Monday October 21, 2019. Health Canada has said it will take 60 days to approve applications to produce and sell cannabis edibles for medical or recreational purposes. A new government will appoint a new Health Minister who might instruct the civil servants to no approve any edibles licenses until there is time to undertake a detailed study to ensure the plan is sound.
When GW Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: GWPH) received FDA approval for Epidiolex as a treatment for Lennox-Gastaut and Dravet syndtome for patients aged two and older in June 2018, it was the first drug approved by the FDA containing a natural and purified cannabis derivative. What many people don’t realize is GWPH commenced its first clinical trials evaluating cannabinoid formulations in 1999. In other words, epidiolex was a 19 year journey from start to finish. According to sciencedirect.com the average time from FDA application to approval is 12 years and the average cost of taking a new drug from concept to market is over $1 billion. So a more rigorous approval process for cannabis-based drugs in Canada could easily take 5 years or more.
Your question asked specifically about medical marijuana but the same tactics might be used by a Conservative government to delay or stall those products as well.