Medical marijuana users concerned about drug supply
Health Canada says there are no supply issues
A medical marijuana user in Amherst, N.S., says he's concerned about the supply of the drug after waiting almost a month to get a prescription filled.
Sam and his wife Tanya are among the roughly 40,000 Canadians with an authorization to possess medical marijuana. Their last names are being withheld for safety reasons.
Health Canada radically changed the rules for medical marijuana on April 1, moving approved production from a cottage industry of thousands of loosely regulated growers to a commercially competitive sector, with an anticipated 50 larger companies shipping high-quality weed in dozens of strains.
So far, only 13 licensed suppliers have made it to the finish line, listed on Health Canada's website as authorized marijuana sources for patients who have their doctor's approval to use cannabis for pain and other symptoms.
Sam, who has a variety of health issues including degenerative discs and glaucoma, said 13 suppliers is not enough.
"I think that there's a shortage of legal medical marijuana in the country right now," he told CBC News.
Tanya smokes marijuana to give her an appetite and control chronic pain. On May 31, she ordered 180 grams from the Peace Naturals Project, one of the 13 federally-licensed medical marijuana production companies.
She didn't get anything until almost a month later on June 27 — and she only got 30 grams. The company has promised to refund the balance.
Sam said trying to get the marijuana has been a struggle.
"We're arguing and fighting with them, practically begging with them to send us medication when they had the money already," he said.
Sold out in 30 seconds
Mark Gobuty, the CEO and founder of the Peace Naturals Project, has apologized to the couple and said a production issue resulted in a five-day blackout on medical marijuana sales, which created a pent-up demand.
"We'd normally sell out in three hours. Normally we put up two to 2.5 kilos every day and three, four hours it will sell," he said.
"It went from that to six minutes to the fastest we sold 2.5 kilograms — under 30 seconds."
Although the Peace Naturals Project shows all strains are sold out, Gobuty said his company is meeting demand. He said they sell out and restock every day. but the company is also expanding its production by building new facilities.
Gobuty said the company has an expansion area ready for production, but is waiting for Health Canada to approve it.
In September, Health Canada was sorting through 156 applications — but the number tripled by February this year and then doubled in just the next three months.
'I don't know where he's getting it from'
Meanwhile, business newcomers have said they're frustrated by the inability of Health Canada to process their applications in a timely way, as their leased space gathers dust and their investors become impatient.
Health Canada told CBC News there are no supply issues.
"Health Canada closely monitors the market. Licensed producers have produced sufficient supply to meet current and anticipated demand," said Sara Lauer, a spokeswoman for Health Canada.
Sam and Tanya said the delay in getting her prescription filled meant he had to buy marijuana illegally.
Tanya said every time Sam goes out the door, she's on "pins and needles" until he returns.
"I don't know where he's getting it from. He doesn't know where he's getting it from. We don't know what kind of people we're dealing with," she said.
The couple said it's easier — and cheaper — to buy illegal marijuana than it is to purchase medical marijuana.
They say the current system isn't working for them and they'd like to see medical marijuana sold at pharmacies, just like other prescription drugs.