What can the Canadian medical marijuana industry learn from Colorado?

While no one in Canada knows what legalization of weed would look like or what it will entail, we can look to the U.S. and other countries for some groundwork.

There are lessons to be learned from Colorado on how the legalization of recreational marijuana in 2014 impacted its medical cannabis market.

Colorado’s medical cannabis industry has been legal since 2000 and has been entrenched in the state’s constitution. But the demand for it has decreased since the legalization of recreational marijuana.

So here are the reasons over why the demand for medicinal marijuana in Colorado has decreased:

Money-hungry politics at play

This is due to the funneling of patients into the recreational market to maximize tax revenue.

Medical marijuana is only subject to a 2.9 per cent state sales tax and local sales tax. However, recreational marijuana is subject to the 2.9 per cent state sales tax, with local sales tax, and an additional 10 per cent state marijuana sales tax.

Also, everyone in the industry is encouraged to make people buy recreational marijuana over medical – from dispensaries to educators.

“If you talk to elected officials behind closed doors, they’re very eager to capture more marijuana revenue and ultimately push patients into the recreational market, where marijuana is taxed at a higher rate,” says attorney Brian Vicente, who helped write Amendment 64, which legalized recreational marijuana in the state.

Recreational sales were up in Colorado in February at $85.9 million, but medical sales were less than that by a significant margin at $26.6 million, which is lowest since 2014.

The fall can also be attributed to the fact that some cities only strictly sell recreational marijuana like Aurora, Colorado. According to the Aurora website:

“Medical marijuana businesses, including medical marijuana centers or dispensaries, medical marijuana cultivation facilities, and medical marijuana-infused product manufacturers, are not permitted to operate within the city.”

But to counter this, there are some cities, who only strictly sell medical marijuana like Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Benefits of CBD becoming clearer

legalization of weed
Colorado has embraced CBD as a viable medical treatment option, especially within the past few years. (file image)

Colorado has embraced CBD as a viable medical treatment option, especially within the past few years. People are starting to realize its medical benefits and using it as part of their health regimen.

Vicente emphasizes this by saying “I think we’ve seen really stunning progress on medical marijuana in Colorado in terms of pushing progressive policies and getting officials to accept marijuana as medicine.”

He added:

“There’s a huge industry in Colorado around this one cannabinoid. It’s really being heralded as having great medical value and has led to a lot of business opportunities for entrepreneurs.”

Chronic opioid use decreasing

Another benefit to legalizing both medical and recreational marijuana was the decrease in use of opioids by Coloradans. Legal marijuana is saving lives, according to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health.

“After Colorado’s legalization of cannabis sale and use, opioid-related deaths decreased more than 6 per cent in the following 2 years,” the study states.

Over the past decade, there has been a shift toward greater acceptance of marijuana, and legalization will only take it to the next level.

Canada should take notes

Colorado is proof that both sectors can coexist if the government remains unmotivated by tax revenue. Canadian politicians can learn a lesson here.

Although the Canada Revenue Agency considers medical cannabis purchased under prescription to be an eligible medical expense now, it should continue to remain this way when recreational legalization occurs.

Licensed producers are also lobbying the government to exempt their products from sales tax, and some experts predict that medical cannabis will one day be covered by insurance benefits, driving the medical sector even more.

Medical marijuana industry appears determined to stay even after recreational cannabis industry is introduced.