According to Health Canada statistics outlined by the Waterloo Chronicle, the number of registered medical cannabis patients in the Great White North is up 32 percent since September, reaching 129,876 as of December 31. At the end of September, Health Canada counted 98,460 medical cannabis patients. The December figures represent a 1,544 percent increase from the 7,900 patients registered in mid-2014.

Dr. John Goodhew, a Toronto physician who prescribes medical cannabis, attributes the spike to the “Trudeau effect” – after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – which he says has led to diminishing concern over cannabis as the government is expected to announce national legalization plans in the spring.

“I think there are probably a minority that are strictly medical and there’s a minority that are strictly recreational and with most people it’s probably a combination,” Goodhew said in the report. “Because part of pain relief is if it relieves pain and it also makes you feel good, it’s kind of a mixed blessing that way.”

Dr. Jeff Blackmer, Canadian Medical Association vice-president of medical professionalism, indicated that the patient count increase could be due to doctors becoming more comfortable prescribing cannabis amid growing demand, noting that while some patients are gaining access to the system for recreational use, most have authentic conditions. He supported federal legalization because he and his colleagues are “tired of being the gatekeepers.”

“We would like to see just one system,” he said. “So if marijuana is legalized for recreational use, we feel very strongly that that makes the ‘question’ around use of medical marijuana essentially moot, because it would be something that’s available to everyone for any reason, and you wouldn’t need to go through physicians and you wouldn’t need to get special dispensation.”

Last February, a Canadian Federal Court ruled that medical cannabis home-grow bans violated a patient’s right to life, liberty, and security – prompting the government to allow patient home grows of up to two indoor and five outdoor plants.

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