NICHE: Canadian Cannabis Research Should be Thriving, not Thwarted

By NICHE Canada

There was so much hope and excitement. Canada was poised to become a global leader in cannabis research. Being one of the only countries in the world to legalize recreational cannabis nationwide, meant researchers from coast to coast to coast would be free to study the complex plant and provide new evidence-based research.

Legalization, they said, would support and advance the important research taking place into the many medical uses of cannabis. New studies would legitimize the plethora of anecdotal evidence supporting cannabis treatment for anxiety, stress, opioid addiction and the painful effects of cancer treatments, to name a few. This would all lead to patients having access to new and better products to treat their medical conditions.

That’s because cannabis research had been restricted for many decades because of prohibition and the significant barriers it created. With the barriers now removed, research was destined to thrive in this new era of legalization.

However, we learned this month that hundreds of academics across the country are waiting on a complex approval process to begin studying the impacts of cannabis on an array of topics. Health Canada says there have been challenges in processing times for new research licence applications, as the government transitions hundreds of authorized research licences from the Narcotics Control Regulations to the Cannabis Act.

More than 350 existing research licensees are in the process, while only 65 new licences have been approved since cannabis was legalized on October 17, with another 250 applications at various stages of the review process.

Instead of delivering groundbreaking research, academics are mired in red tape that seems unnecessary given that it’s been nine months since legalization and the government had years to prepare for the transition.

Canada can do better.

As the landscape in our country evolves, we have newfound responsibility to patients and consumers. As cannabis continues to move into the political and social mainstream, health, safety and medical advancement need to be of utmost importance if the industry is truly going to thrive in the post-legalization era.

This will require strategic partnerships to support research and a firm commitment from both companies and government to invest time and money into this critically important area of the industry.

Canada has the bright minds and the ability to conduct research in all areas of the cannabis sector, which can then be exported to other nations who are looking for leadership. But, this will only happen if the government makes it a priority and starts putting their dollars where their promises are.