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Pot-based medical pet products closer to fruition as research grows



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  • TORONTO — Canadian pets are a few steps closer to getting their paws on pot-based medical treatments in Canada as more cannabis companies research marijuana’s efficacy for companion animals.

    Canopy Growth Corp. is the latest medical marijuana company to enter the potentially lucrative pet market with its announcement this week that it will embark on a Health Canada-approved clinical trial to research the use of cannabis-based products to treat animal anxiety.

    The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association’s Dr. Shane Renwick says there’s been a flurry of cannabis-related pet health research as Canada’s laws on recreational cannabis crystallize ahead of legalization on Oct. 17.

    The association’s national issues and animal welfare manager expects there to be more clinical trials in the pipeline going forward.

    “We hope that there will be the research required to allow safe registered products on the market in the not-too-distant future… It will offer alternatives in a lot of cases to medications we’re currently using for a variety of conditions,” Renwick added. “So it’s an exciting potential that we see.”

    Dr. Renwick said the association’s members have fielded many queries from clients asking about treating their pets ailments, such as pain, with cannabis. However, there is no legal avenue for veterinarians to prescribe pot, unlike for medical physicians, and not enough clinical evidence to support it, he added.

    The association is hopeful that Health Canada will eventually approve some cannabis-based veterinary health products that its members can prescribe for their pet clients, and each clinical trial approval brings them “one step closer” in the process, he said.

    Many cannabis companies have been positioning themselves to cash in on the drug’s potential for pets as the country prepares up to for legalization of cannabis for adult use this fall.

    Canopy on Wednesday announced it got the green light from the Veterinary Drug Directorate of Health Canada for its research into the use of cannabidiol, also known as CBD, enriched oil to treat anxiety in certain animals. The research will be conducted by Canopy Animal Health, a division of Canopy’s affiliated research arm.

    “The use of natural-occurring cannabinoids as a therapy for companion animals is a logical new forefront of medical discovery… These trial approvals mark a significant milestone on the journey of making cannabis-based drugs accepted and recommended by veterinarians,” said Marc Wayne, managing director, Canopy Health Innovations, in a statement.

    CannTrust Holdings Inc. in April entered into a letter of intent with Grey Wolf Animal Health Inc. to develop cannabis products to support the well-being of pets. B.C.-based True Leaf Medicine in 2015 established True Leaf Pet Inc. to produce hemp-based products for sale worldwide.

    True Leaf said that in its 2018 fiscal year, sales of pet products totalled $1.4 million, up 280 per cent from the previous year.

    It’s tough to quantify the size of the nascent market for cannabis products for pets.

    In 2017, sales of cannabis products marketed for pets at medical and adult-use cannabis dispensaries was nearly $7 million in California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington, according to BDS Analytics. In Colorado, sales of pet products grew 49 per cent in 2017, versus growth across all product categories at 15 per cent, it said.

    The pet pot segment growth, however, comes from an initially low base and its hard to gauge demand, said Greg Shoenfeld, vice president of operations for BDS Analytics, based in Colorado. However, in an increasingly competitive cannabis landscape, catering to pets can be a differentiator, he said.

    “Being able to develop a presence with the pet loving consumer could be a point of strength,” Shoenfeld said.

    Renwick believes there is a “huge” demand for safe, tested cannabis-based products for pets. The CVMA has been advocating that veterinarians should have the same ability as medical physicians to prescribe them as well.

    “Our pets are living longer, generally, cancer and other illnesses can produce a good deal of pain and discomfort for animals near the end of their lives,” he said.

    “And owners today are much more cognizant of wanting to alleviate any suffering that animals might endure.”

    Armina Ligaya, The Canadian Press

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    Pot shop raids “highly unlikely” on Wednesday: head of police chiefs



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  • VANCOUVER — The head of Canada’s police chiefs says it’s “highly unlikely” there will be raids of unlicensed pot shops on the day marijuana becomes legal.

    Vancouver Chief Const. Adam Palmer says he hasn’t heard of any police departments planning to crack down on illegal dispensaries on Wednesday.

    Enforcement against unlicensed marijuana stores will primarily fall to provinces, which are using inspectors to levy fines, as they do with illegal liquor sellers, but Palmer says police will work with them.

    Provincial approval of cannabis stores varies but British Columbia is expected to only have one legal shop on Wednesday, while dozens of illegal pot stores have operated for years and some plan to stay open without licences allowing their operation.

    Palmer, who is also president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, says Canada is heading into uncharted waters this week, but police are ready because they have been policing cannabis-impaired drivers and illicit grow-ops for years.

    He says police likely won’t focus on shutting down boutique grow-ops that are waiting for federal micro-cultivator licences, and rather will continue to prioritize those allegedly connected to organized crime.

    The Canadian Press

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    Online cannabis portals bracing for surge of orders as legalization looms



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  • TORONTO — As many as 100 locations across the country may be ready to sell cannabis on Wednesday when recreational pot is legalized across the country, but most Canadians’ first purchase of legal pot will likely be at the click of a button.

    Provincial and territorial governments and private retailers say they believe they’re ready for the surge of online shoppers, but it is unclear how high pot demand will actually be.

    The Alberta Liquor and Gaming Commission has been testing their online cannabis sales portal developed with OnX Enterprise Solutions to iron out any issues before it goes live and is “feeling good to go,” said spokeswoman Heather Holmen.

    “Like anything, we can’t offer any guarantees,” she said. “We may find that there’s a major onslaught of inquiries and it could have effects on consumers’ ability to get into the online store.”

    The first purchases of pot when online portals open at 12:01 local time on Oct. 17 will make Canada one of the few countries in the world to legalize and regulate recreational cannabis, and marks a historical shift in the country’s drug policy.

    The cannabis market in Canada, including medical, illegal and legal recreational products is expected to generate up to $7.17 billion in total sales in 2019, according to a recent Deloitte report. Of that amount, legal sales are expected to contribute more than half, up to $4.34 billion, in the first year, Deloitte added.

    Under Canada’s framework for medical marijuana, the only legal way to purchase the drug is online directly from licensed producers for home delivery and e-commerce is likely to play a major role for recreational cannabis as well.

    The final number of pot outlets that will be ready for Oct. 17 remains hazy, but an estimated 35 per cent of the country’s population is expected to have access to a cannabis outlet within 10 kilometres or less of their home during the fourth quarter of 2018, a recent Statistics Canada study showed. That compares to 90 per cent of Canadians being within 10 kilometres of a liquor store currently, StatCan said.

    To estimate demand, PEI Cannabis referenced and integrated data including the federal census, provincial population reports and consultancy group surveys, said Samantha Hughes, a spokesperson for the province’s department of finance.

    “PEI Cannabis anticipates that its retail stores and its online store… will be very busy on opening day, October 17 and the weeks following that date,” said Hughes.

    Data from Canada’s existing medical marijuana system as well as information from the U.S. — where states like Colorado have already legalized cannabis for recreational use — can be useful as a guide, said Mark Barbour, a spokesman for NB Liquor.

    The latest data from Statistics Canada showed that licensed cannabis producers made 135,062 shipments to medical users in June.

    “At the end of the day, we really don’t know,” said Barbour. “It’s a new industry here in Canada… We are prepared for every scenario.”

    E-commerce software provider Shopify Inc., which Ontario and B.C. along with some private retailers have selected to power their cannabis websites, isn’t worried about the volume of hits and purchases on Wednesday.

    In addition to a tremendous amount of testing, the Ottawa-based company’s e-commerce offering handled large volumes for Kylie Cosmetics and the namesake reality star’s popular Lip Kit launches, said Shopify’s vice-president and general manager Loren Padelford.

    “I don’t expect cannabis launch day to be any larger,” he said.

    Demand issues aside, there are growing concerns about adequate supply. Aphria’s chief executive Vic Neufeld said last week to expect “sold out signs” as supply chain issues abound. Think-tank C.D. Howe also warned in a report last week that current supplies of cannabis in the fourth quarter would only meet between 30 and 60 per cent of total demand.

    Whether or not a legal recreational portal will entice existing cannabis users to switch from their black market source remains to be seen, said Brad Poulos, an instructor at Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Management. Illicit brick-and-mortar dispensaries will come under pressure to close, but those without a storefront less so, he added.

    The neighbourhood dealer may also deliver within hours, rather than the days needed for a package to arrive in the mail, he added.

    “They don’t need any website … There’s just too many compelling arguments for the current illicit market.”

    Armina Ligaya, The Canadian Press

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