Health Canada has reported a significant jump in the average amount of cannabis being authorized for medical licence holders who grow at home, calling the 36.2 grams per day figure included in its latest update “concerning.”
The revelation follows criticism from politicians and law enforcement agencies who point to a “loophole” in pot regulations allowing licenced large-scale production by patients and designated growers to go largely unchecked.
New data from the federal agency shows the amount of cannabis patients are authorized to grow by health care practitioners jumped from 25.2 grams per day in October 2018 to 36.2 in March. Meanwhile, the daily average for patients who buy medical cannabis from licenced producers and federally authorized medical sellers like Shoppers Drug Mart has never climbed above 2.1 grams.
“Health Canada has seen a progressive and concerning increase in the average daily amount being authorized by some health care practitioners in some jurisdictions,” Health Canada said in commentary accompanying the data.
“Health Canada is concerned that high daily authorized amounts are, in a few instances, leading to abuse of the access to cannabis for medical purposes framework and are undermining the integrity of the system that many patients and health care practitioners rely on to access cannabis to address their medical needs.”
Deepak Anand, chief executive officer of Materia Ventures and a longtime commentator on cannabis regulations, points in part to “some bad actors” among health care practitioners to explain the wide discrepancy between those you buy and those who grow their own. He said the seemingly high 36.2 gram per day figure may also be the product of a number of factors, such as lost crops by inexperienced growers, and individuals who need large amounts of cannabis to produce their own extracted products.
“The report indicates 458 out of 2,339 health care practitioners associated with active personal or designated production registrations authorized 25 or more grams per day, and 47 authorized 100 or more grams per day,” Anand told Yahoo Finance Canada.
“It remains unclear if we are dealing with systemic issues as opposed to targeted ones as a result of the tremendous pressure the regulator has fallen under recently by provincial and municipal governments.”
Anand added that many patients choose to grow their own cannabis because they see it as the most affordable option.
Local law enforcement agencies have seized millions of dollars worth of cannabis grown under Health Canada licences for medical patients. Last month, Durham Regional Police in southern Ontario said “monitoring of individual licensed growers is clearly not happening on a scale required” after $50 million worth of pot was confiscated from authorized private growers who exceeded the number of plants designated by Health Canada.
An online petition launched by MP Diane Finley (C—Haldimand-Norfolk) in October calls upon the federal government to close “loopholes in the current legislation that impede local officials' and law enforcement’s investigations of growing operations that appear to be in violation of the law.” The petition also refers to “a lack of oversight from Health Canada of growing facilities, and of individuals obtaining extraordinarily large prescriptions to be grown by designated growers.”
The Health Canada data shows 43,211 individuals were allowed to grow cannabis for personal medical use by the end of September, and 377,024 clients were registered as patients.
Jeff Lagerquist is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow him on Twitter @jefflagerquist.