IP and Canada’s booming medical marijuana industry


Sheema Khan

In the spring of 2014, the Canadian government loosened restrictions on the commercial exchange of medical cannabis, ushering in what some would call a ‘free market’ for the product.

In the past, those who had legal permission to use medical cannabis were allowed to access the drug in one of three ways: grow their own supply; have a designated entity grow the supply; or buy it from the government’s sole designated supplier. Now, anyone can apply for a licence to grow medical cannabis and sell it directly to patients.

The new Marihuana (sic) for Medical Purposes Regulations have resulted in a deluge of applications for a special licence, from individuals to start-ups. Since the new rules came into effect, more than 800 companies have applied for special licences over a span of three months. According to Health Canada (the federal department of health), approximately 40,000 patients use medical cannabis, with C$150 million ($137 million) in revenues for the industry. The number of patients is expected reach 400,000 in ten years, while industry revenues are set to exceed C$1.4 billion ($1.3 billion) in 2014. 

Reasons for the explosive projected growth include a huge market for opiate substitutes for pain management, and the potential to tailor medical cannabis strains for specific symptoms.

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