Just 6 years ago, cannabis became legal in the state of Colorado and yet years before its legalization, it was more widely available than Starbucks in the state. Despite this, the U.S. still has yet to fully legalize the substance, while Canada is well on its way. Canada will be the first of the G20 countries to fully legalize cannabis come summer of this year, creating incredible opportunity for businesses. What was once prohibited is now maturing into a legal, regulated, accepted and hot commodity.

And with all provinces undergoing legalization simultaneously, the political support is there to enable Canada to dominate the worldwide Cannabis market. Until now, efforts to legalize cannabis were unable to spur the movement that we see in Canada today, with new evidenced-based policies being developed that will:

● Reduce access to cannabis for those underage

● Ensure federally regulated production and standards

● Establish a legitimate market that will create jobs and benefit the economy

However, it is well-known that cannabis hasn’t always been accepted in Canada. In 1923, cannabis was deemed illegal under the Narcotics Drug Act Amendment Bill and in 1971, we saw the very first pro-cannabis “smoke-in” that was held in Vancouver’s Gastown District. This is also known as the Gastown Riot, where hundreds of protesters demonstrated before being removed non-violently by police. The modern-day version of this protest takes place annually every April 20th and is known as 4:20 (four-twenty). Because of impending legalization — we’ve just celebrated the last of these “black market” protests, and big business is ready to move in and capitalize on this new industry, especially the medical aspect of the industry.

According to a report by Statista, the market value of medical marijuana is expected to grow to $8.7 billion in the first year post-legalization, with an ancillary market bringing an estimated $22.6 billion to the national economy. Already, we have seen publicly listed companies in the cannabis space drawing headlines for sky-high valuations and international expansion. Many of the companies listed on Canadian exchanges have achieved valuations in the billions.

Currently, there are 102 authorized licensed producers in Canada, with 56 in Ontario and 22 in British Columbia. Health Canada has made the application process more thorough, while still keeping market-entry fairly easy in order to meet the predicted demand.

And the demand is real — cannabis acceptance and legalization is a growing global trend. A gallup poll conducted in October 2017 revealed that 64% of the U.S. public favours the legalization of cannabis. Currently, cannabis is legal in 9 states for recreational use and 29 states for medical use. Medical use of cannabis has been a major driver of this demand.

The Medical Benefits of Cannabis

It is the healthcare startups in the cannabis space that are considered the most lucrative and are likely segmented to receive funding. And this comes as no surprise, as there is solid research behind the medicinal and wellness benefits of cannabis. With the industry set to expand dramatically and cannabis becoming mainstream, we are likely to discover even more of these wellness benefits.

Two of the most well-known and prevalent compounds in cannabis are cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Each compound has a unique way of affecting the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a series of cell receptors that serve as modulators, regulating many of the body’s physiological and mental processes.

THC interacts with the CB1 receptors which are found mostly within the brain, and although THC is stigmatized somewhat for the “high” or euphoric effects it causes, the compound has also been shown to provide real medical benefit. In low doses, THC has been shown to be an effective treatment for anxiety and PTSD. Other benefits of THC include reduction of chemotherapy-induced nausea and pain management for migraines and fibromyalgia.

Conversely, CBD does not produce a “high” feeling, has little effect on the CB1 receptors and instead works on the CB2 receptors. The compound has shown great promise in a number of areas:

● Providing pain relief

● Reducing incidence of severe seizures for children with epilepsy

● Aiding with insomnia and even daytime sleepiness

● Acting as an antidepressant

Increasing Mainstream Recognition of CBD

Since January of this year, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has even removed CBD from its prohibited substances list, enabling athletes to capitalize on the substance’s pain relief and anti-inflammatory properties for endurance and recovery. Former NFL players have been outspoken about their use of CBD following concussive injuries.

A growing number of individuals are also starting to pair their wellness regimes such as running, yoga and meditation with cannabis to keep themselves emotionally centered. The Cannabis plant also possesses fragrant oils that can augment the flavor of foods and award-winning Iron Chef Cat Cora, has even been experimenting with cannabis in the culinary field to create amazing dishes with a focus on health.

With study after study, organizations worldwide beginning to recognize the benefits of medical cannabis and Canada leading the way in legalization, the nation is positioned to be a true leader in this emerging global industry.

Originally posted: Medium