Uruguay may have been the first country to legalize cannabis, but Canada is set to become the biggest market and the most prolific exporter of marijuana on the planet.
Canada’s medical marijuana system dates back to 2001, but it wasn’t until 2014 that the federal government set up a regulation system to allow companies to start growing and selling cannabis. Back then, the most prominent licensed producers (LPs) were Tilray and Tweed. By 2016, Canadian dried medical marijuana flower and oil tinctures started shipping overseas.
Canopy Growth Corp & Tilray Lead Canadian Cannabis Exports
Tweed is now part of Canopy Growth Corp., one the largest marijuana companies in the world. They acquired German company Spektrum Cannabis to help distribute Canadian medical marijuana to some 400 pharmacies across Germany. Now their Canadian cannabis can be found in Germany, Australia, Chile, Brazil and other nations that have green-lit medical marijuana.
In September 2017, Tilray announced a $30 million (CAN) marijuana growing and packaging facility planned for Portugal. Tilray is the only company in the world with a Portuguese government-awarded license to grow tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in the country. The Portugal operation would be its first outside of Canada, but the Nanaimo, B.C.-based company is already selling products in six countries, including, most recently, the Czech Republic.
Licensed Producers Selling Canadian Cannabis Exports Overseas
MedReleaf (Toronto Stock Exchange: LEAF) completed its first-ever international shipment of medical cannabis oil. It just happened to be the first-ever medicinal cannabis oil imported to Brazil. The delivery was made available to a single child, Sofia Langenbach, who suffers from a genetic syndrome that causes severe seizures and is only successfully treated with medicinal marijuana.
Besides establishing the ambitious operation in Cantanhede, Portugal, Tilray became the first Canadian LP to import legal medical cannabis oil into Germany for nationwide distribution through pharmacies. In Victoria, Australia, 29 critically ill children were the first Australians to gain legal access to medical cannabis thanks to a Tilray shipment. Its products have also reached Cyprus, Chile, Croatia and New Zealand.
- CanniMed Therapeutics (TSE: CMED), delivered the first commercial shipment of medicinal marijuana oil to Perth, Australia almost immediately after gaining an export permit from Health Canada.
- In 2016, Aphria (TSE: APH) signed a deal to export cannabis to an Australian medical life science company.
- Canopy Growth (TSE: WEED) secured permits last year to export medical cannabis for sale to German patients. It also partnered with Australia's AusCann Group Holdings, with the intention of introducing the LP's products to the country. Canopy subsidiary, Bedrocan, created a new company to import proprietary medicinal cannabis variety into Brazil.
- CanniMed (TSE: CMED) has an agreement to supply medicinal marijuana to the Cayman Islands—so far 12,960 ml of oil has made it to their shores. News of the deal went public in May 2017, shortly after Cannimed’s Australia transaction. Next up for CanniMed is South Africa.
- Cronos Group (TSXV: MJN), via its subsidiary Peace Naturals, signed an export deal last year with Aurora Cannabis-owned Pedianios GmbH in Germany.
How Are These Marijuana Exports Legal?
All this international growth may sound suspicious, but it's all above board because Canada is one of a few countries where exporting marijuana is legal—and because the exports adhere to the United Nations Single Convention On Narcotic Drugs, which passed into law on Aug. 8, 1961. The treaty is concerned with the illicit drug trade worldwide, but acknowledges that some substances form the base for legitimate medical treatments. That’s why cannabis exports from Canada are allowed, provided they’re for medicinal or research purposes only. Health Canada is explicit with its requirements that LP applications for exports need to follow international treaties such as this one—or they won’t be approved.
Health Canada's records show that by January 2018, Canadian LPs sent cannabis oil to Australia, the Cayman Islands, Chile, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic and New Zealand. They also posted dry cannabis flower to Australia, Brazil, Germany, Israel and the Netherlands.
Laws that allow medicinal marijuana are pending in over a dozen nations, causing agencies like the World Health Organization to begin recognizing its legitimate medical uses despite being banned for years under international treaties.
Canadian Cannabis Set for World Domination
As medicinal cannabis grows in popularity as an alternative to harsh, dangerous and addictive drugs, analysts expect exports will continue to rise. With Canada legalization on the horizon and LPs establishing overseas operations, it's clear that Canada is ready to dominate as the world's primary source of cannabis.
Photo credit: Axel Ahoi