Brash, bold, professionally branded and (in some cases) barely legal. Canada’s medical cannabis industry is these things and so much more. And as the recent Lift Expo 2016 showed, it’s certainly never boring. From a Spanish seed company with a fold-out foosball table, to pure strain-specific terpene extracts by Marcus Richardson/Blue River Extracts, to cooking demos by veteran Cody Lindsay (Wellness Soldier) using Tilray oils, to Tokyo Smoke’s bike-powered espresso machine, to fancy booths and high tech displays by the nation’s Licensed Producers, all facets of the of Canadian medi-cannabiz were on display at Lift Expo TO 2016.

Featuring dozens of vendors and thousands of attendees, the event was certainly well attended and reflective of the many patient and corporate interests that make up Canada’s medical cannabis industry. Despite taking place in the immediate aftermath of Project Claudia - the most significant dispensary crackdown in Canadian history - the mood was overwhelmingly friendly, optimistic, cooperative & future-facing, but also somewhat tinged by an under-current of fear and frustration stemming from the raids.

The Canadian Medical Cannabis Council (CMCC) was a Platinum sponsor of the event, and Peace Naturals Project, Tilray, Delta 9 and RedeCan all had displays and staff on-hand at the large CMCC area and the flow of interested patients and  healthcare practitioners was practically non-stop. On Sunday at 11am, I had the honor of moderating a panel titled “PATIENT-CENTERED ACCESS TO MEDICAL CANNABIS IN CANADA; AN INTIMATE DISCUSSION WITH 4 INDUSTRY LEADERS”. The speakers were Rick Redekop, CEO of RedeCan; Greg Engel, CEO of Tilray; John Arbuthnot, VP of Delta 9 BioTech; and Mark Gobuty, CEO of Peace Naturals Project.

The panel kicked off with a brief overview of CMCC and our Patient Advisory Committee, and I then highlighted our primary lobbying initiatives, which focus on lowering patient costs and increasing access:

• Eradicate kickbacks and high patient fees

• End the taxation of medical cannabis

• Increase private and public cost-coverage of medical cannabis & reduce life insurance fees

• Push back on anti-vaping legislation

• Lobby for increased billing codes for physicians re. medical cannabis

• Allow patients to more easily migrate between LPs

• Allow community-based access through storefronts.

I shared the CMCC’s recent efforts to get Canadian private insurers to increase cost coverage for medical cannabis, and to no longer put authorized medical cannabis patients in the same rate class as tobacco smokers in regards to life insurance, both of which were the focus of a presentation I gave at the Canadian Life & Health Insurance Association Claims conference in May. This lobbying work gained extra poignancy when Sun Life announced in early June that it will now treat medical marijuana users the same as non-smokers when applying for life insurance.

The panel provided a unique opportunity to learn more about these industry leaders and the patient-centered policies of their various companies. Like so many other Canadians, everyone on the panel had a personal story about what brought them into this industry, such as the end-of-life use of cannabis by parents or siblings, and all the companies represented had discount programs in place to benefit low income patients. In light of the recent dispensary raids and accusations from some that LPs were in some way responsible for the actions of the Toronto Police Department, it may have surprised some in attendance to hear that these Licensed Producers are not opposed to dispensaries, and are actually actively lobbying all levels of government to regulate storefront access. The CMCC and its member LPs all believe that Canada’s medical cannabis program will inevitably include community-based access at some point in the near future.

We’d like to thank and congratulate the good folks at Lift for bringing all of Canada medical cannabis community under one roof to share what’s now, what’s new, and what’s next. The CMCC looks forward to the next occasion to gather together with all of the patients, businesses and advocates that have done so much to ensure that Canadian patients have safe access to medical cannabis.