While the United States continues to tussle with the idea of allowing cannabis use for medical and recreational purposes, our friendly Northern neighbor Canada has been prepping to legalize marijuana nationwide by next year. Although Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has recently admitted that the police would continue enforcing the current marijuana laws until they’re changed, it hasn’t stopped the Canadian people from signing up for the country’s growing medical cannabis registry. 

According to Heath Canada statistics, there’s been a major boom in citizens who have turned to marijuana for some sort of medicinal purpose. At the end of September, around 100,000 Canadians had obtained prescriptions and registered to buy cannabis from an approved grower. This number is a whopping increase from the 30,537 people that were registered at the same time last year. 

There are a few reasons that can be attributed to this growth, but the most apparent seems to be the growing awareness of what cannabis can offer many patients. Just a couple of years ago, the medical cannabis landscape in Canada was filled with doubt and stigma, but as Health Canada-approved growers continue to spread the gospel of green to doctors and patients, more citizens have seen their reluctance to try out cannabis dissipate.

Another major reason for this boost is the switch from a homegrown-focused market to large-scale commercial grow-ops, which make cannabis more accessible and affordable for prospective patients. But that doesn’t mean that physicians are all up to speed on the benefits of cannabis. According to family physician Alan Bell, more patients are asking about medical marijuana, but not all doctors are knowledgable enough to prescribe it.    

“A patient walks in, says, ‘I have this pain. I’ve been using street marijuana; it helps me,’ ” Dr. Bell said to the Ottawa Citizen. “The average physician is going to be at a loss. And as physicians we are very reluctant to authorize the use of any medications without adequate education. That’s a real barrier.”

Needless to say, the expansion of medical cannabis patients in Canada foreshadows a highly successful recreational market if all goes according to plan next year. While the black market still stands to delegitimize medical cannabis to some extent, the increase in commercial grows will likely help supply both Canada's medical and recreational market. It remains to be seen how Trudeau will enact his plan for countrywide legalization, but one thing is for certain: Canada is poised and primed to pioneer this new frontier.