Albertans lead nation (by a lot) in per capita percentage of medical cannabis users

Seeking hazy relief from Alberta’s economic doldrums is likely the main reason why the province led the way when it comes to medical cannabis users, says the owner of a Calgary medicinal pot clinic.

Statistics Canada on Monday released new data, showing nearly five million Canadians consumed cannabis in 2017, for both recreational and medical purposes, spending about $5.6 billion on the drug.

Albertans, per capita, consumed 24.1 grams of marijuana last year, trailing only B.C. (24.6 grams) and Nova Scotia (27.1 grams), according to StatCan’s findings.

But Alberta households easily led the way when it came to percentage of those using cannabis for medical purposes, with a quarter procuring the drug with a medical certificate, the numbers show. By comparison, the next highest use of medical cannabis was New Brunswick at 16.67 per cent.

Brent Curtis, owner of Rocky Mountain Cannabis Club in Calgary, said at least half of the clients that have come into his southeast clinic since it opened in December are energy industry survivors looking for quick relief from a roller coaster economy that’s left many stressed and on edge.

“I think Albertans in general live a very high stress life, especially with the oil downturn, and I think we’ve seen a lot of clients who are looking to relax, and sleep and de-stress,” said Curtis, himself a casualty of Alberta’s downturn, cut adrift twice from oil patch jobs before joining the burgeoning cannabis industry.

“We’ve got so many young professionals coming in and they need to sleep — they’re stressed out and they have lots of anxiety about losing their jobs.”

Curtis said while most of their clients are struggling with sleeplessness and anxiety, they’re seeing a surge in senior clients, in search of elusive pain relief for a variety of ailments.

Cam Battley, CCO of Aurora Cannabis, agreed that while Alberta’s economic fortunes have likely contributed to the number of medical marijuana users, the province’s pot-friendly climate and willingness to explore new frontiers likely bolster those numbers even further.

“Alberta has a very strong concentration of cannabis clinics, as well as physicians with expertise with medical cannabis,” he said.

“In addition, Albertans tend to be independent-minded and are generally less worried (about) any stigma around using medical cannabis.”

Beyond that expertise, local consumers also enjoy another Alberta advantage, with pot prices in the province at $7.51 a gram in 2017, according to StatsCan, with only four provinces or territories shelling out less.

Affordable prices combined with medical expertise may have opened doors for some prospective pot users, Battley said.

“It’s better when people sit down with a physician to talk about medical cannabis than fall back on alcohol or other illegal drugs,” he said.

But Jeff Mooij, president of Alberta-based 420Clinic, has a different read on the medical cannabis boom in his backyard.

“I believe it’s a false market — it’s not a real indication of what the medical market is,” said Mooij, charging that several start-ups adopted the “low-hanging fruit” approach, doling out prescriptions that essentially were legalized extensions of Alberta’s recreational market.

“Our clinic is overrun by patients who started off getting prescriptions very easily, but haven’t got any follow-up help,” he said, adding Alberta initially imposed overly strict regulations on medical cannabis, but relaxed them to a degree that made enforcing the rules difficult if not impossible, given the sheer volume of clinics that emerged.

Mooij added he expects Alberta’s medical cannabis use ratio to significantly adjust when recreational use is legalized later this year, and next year’s numbers are released.

slogan@postmedia.com

On Twitter: @ShawnLogan403

 

 

 

 

 

 

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