Albertans among Canada's biggest users of medicinal marijuana, Health Canada says
'We're seeing a lot of demand from this province,' says cannabis sector recruitment agency
Alberta is home to the second highest number of medicinal marijuana users in the country, according to Health Canada.
The province is runner-up to Ontario, which has three times the population.
Health Canada released the information through market data that looks at statistics surrounding medicinal marijuana use across the country. Licensed producers were asked to report on the amount of medical marijuana released for sale to their clients.
About 200,000 clients were registered to receive medical marijuana in the first quarter of this year. Just over 74,000 of them are in Alberta. In Ontario, about 86,000 people are registered. Nova Scotia came in third, trailing at about 8,700.
Why so many registered users in Alberta? Frederick Pels has an idea.
The CEO of The Green Room Society says he feels it has a lot to do with geography and the ability to get reliable product.
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"I think they just wanted safe access, is really what it boiled down to," said Pels, whose Green Room Society provides mainly online information to people on how and where they can obtain medicinal marijuana.
"We have a huge province with limited access," he said. "You have two major metropolitan cities and you know people don't want to buy from the black market, so they seek out the most safest, reliable way to get it."
The Green Room Society has two locations in Edmonton and two in Calgary. It is opening another location in Red Deer.
Its Alberta operations can't dispense marijuana from its stores, only online.
'A lot of demand from this province'
The company is currently looking at opening a new location in Victoria, Pels said.
"We're growing pretty darn quickly," he said. "We employ about 60 people right now, so, you know we'll take any opportunity we can get to grow."
The Green Room Society isn't the only company setting up shop in Alberta.
"From a business opportunity perspective, I think there's going to be a lot of attention given to Alberta from licensed producers and the cannabis market because we're seeing a lot of demand from this province," said Alison McMahon, CEO and founder of Cannabis at Work.
Her company is Canada's first cannabis industry head-hunter, providing people with information on jobs in the emerging industry and helping companies find qualified individuals for them.
McMahon said it's "fascinating" to see the statistics on medical marijuana usage in Alberta.
"It's interesting to me, perhaps given some of the safety sensitive type of industries we have in Alberta," said McMahon, whose company also helps employers teach those responsible for managing cannabis in the workplace, as well as teaching employees on how to comply with cannabis regulations and industry standards.
"How these numbers really affect employers ... is one of my first thoughts," she said.
"This many medical cannabis patients in the province means there's a lot of people who have jobs, who are potentially in positions where they should be disclosing cannabis use to employers. Whether they're doing that or not is a question."