Medical Cannabis In Canada Faces Decline: What's Behind The 38% Drop In Registrations?

Canada’s medical cannabis landscape is facing a profound transformation.

Since the legalization of recreational marijuana in 2018, there has been a steep decline in both patient registrations and spending. The challenge now lies in deciphering the reasons and navigating future implications.

In a recent report by Zuanic & Associates, Canada's cannabis market shows growth but lags behind the U.S. in per capita spending and market share. Meet Pablo Zuanic who will further discuss these and many more findings at the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference in Chicago. Save the date: September 27 and 28.

Related Content: Canada's Cannabis Market Shows Steady Growth But Lags Behind US Counterparts

Numbers Don't Lie

Recent data from Health Canada and Statistics Canada underlined this downturn. As of March, only 212,700 patients were actively registered with federal licensees, down 38% from October 2018’s 345,520.

Financial patterns echo this change, with medical cannabis expenses for the first half of 2023 reaching just CA$185 million ($135 million), comparable to 2016 levels.

Pharmacy Distribution Dilemma And Tax Issues

Unlike European countries, Canada’s medical cannabis is not available in mainstream pharmacies. Ken Weisbrod, formerly of Shoppers Drug Mart’s cannabis segment, underscored a governmental hesitancy to merge cannabis into mainstream healthcare, reported MjBiz Daily.

Taxation also plays a role. Medical cannabis, taxed similarly to its recreational counterpart, has led patients to reconsider their choices. Yet, places like Colorado have successfully implemented dual tax regimes without issues.

“The fear that people will flock and abandon the adult-use market to avoid the tax is not credible given that in other jurisdictions which have a dual system of taxation for medical (i.e., not taxed or taxed at a lower rate) and adult-use (e.g., Colorado) this issue has not occurred,” said Weisbrod.

Related Content: No More Medical Cannabis In Canada? Here's Why State Agency Health Canada Wants To End The Program

Interestingly, while domestic sales wane, Canada's medical marijuana exports are booming. They boast a 50% growth to CA $160 million in 2022-23. Together with domestic sales, this propelled the total market value to CA$ 560 million last year.

To address these challenges, Weisbrod, now an international healthcare consultant, suggested that provincial governments craft their own medical cannabis frameworks, distinct from Health Canada.

Related Content: Vancouver Cannabis Co's $2.3M In Private Placement Deal Paves Way For More International Expansion

“We don’t want Canada to take a back seat if legalization happens in the U.S.,” Irwin Simon, CEO of Tilray Brands Inc TLRY, recently told BNN Bloomberg. He said novel products, like cannabis-infused beverages and foods, will be instrumental in driving growth.

Join us at the 17th edition of the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference in Chicago on September 27-28 to delve into global and Canada-specific cannabis trends. Get your tickets today before prices increase and secure a spot at the epicenter of cannabis investment and branding. All information is available on

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