Canada's First Marijuana Export Permit Means Bud Bound For Croatia

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TORONTO -- Canadian cannabis producer Tilray is placing its bets on budding demand from markets overseas as it begins shipping medical marijuana products to Croatia.

The company will be exporting two varieties of liquid capsules that contain the active medicinal ingredients of marijuana to patients in Croatia, which legalized the drug for medical use last year.

The first contains 5.0 mg of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and 5.0 mg of cannabidiol, or CBD, per capsule, while the second contains 2.5 mg of THC and 2.0 mg of CBD.

tilray medical marijuana
Shlomo Booklin with a tray of cannabis seedlings at Tilray a medical marijuana grow-op in Nanaimo August 14, 2014. (John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail)

Tilray president Brendan Kennedy says the company is the first of the Canadian producers to ship medical marijuana products overseas.

"Health Canada informally told us that they issued us the first export permit,'' says Kennedy, adding that after a lengthy application process, Tilray received the permit earlier this week.

Kennedy says Europe presents a good growth opportunity for Tilray as an increasing number of its countries have been choosing to legalize the drug.

"This is a rapidly developing industry around the world."
— Brendan Kennedy, president of Tilray

Meanwhile, the number of registered Canadian patients is lower than many in the medical cannabis industry had initially expected, says Kennedy.

"The patient numbers overall are lower than we imagined in Canada, and they're certainly lower than Health Canada's own projections,'' says Kennedy.

"Certainly that incentivized us to look at other potential markets for this product.''

As of the end of last year, there were just shy of 40,000 patients registered under the Marijuana for Medical Purposes program, according to statistics available on Health Canada's website.

tilray medical marijuana
A Tilray employee at the company's facility in Nanaimo, B.C., August 14, 2014. (Canadian Press photo)

Globally, however, there is massive demand for pharmaceutical cannabis products, says Kennedy, and Tilray is looking to capture some of that demand.

"This is a rapidly developing industry around the world,'' says Kennedy.

"Our intent is to build a global company that is investing significantly in global expansion. There is often this misconception that medical cannabis is a North American phenomenon, and that's not the case. We see massive changes in places like Australia and throughout the EU.''

Tilray will also soon be exporting medical cannabis products to Australia for a clinical trial in a deal that was announced previously. The company plans to reveal other medical market partnerships in Europe in the coming months.

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