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Canadians with medical pot prescriptions soars to nearly 130,000

Medical marijuana is grown in a Smiths Falls, Ont., facility.

Jordan Sinclair/Tweed Inc.

The number of Canadians registered to purchase medical marijuana from licensed producers has exploded since the federal commercial-access program was introduced almost four years ago.

The most recent Health Canada figures show that at the end of last year, almost 130,000 Canadians had signed up with the country's 38 licensed cannabis producers.

That's a 32 per cent jump from the more than 98,000 registered at the end of September 2016 and up from the 7,900 granted access to medicinal cannabis in mid-2014.

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But the surge in demand has many wondering: do all these patients have a legitimate medical need or are some using the system to get recreational pot before it's legalized, as the Liberal government has promised to do this year?

Toronto family practitioner Dr. John Goodhew, who supports cannabis use for therapeutic applications like pain, says he has seen a definite rise in the number of patients seeking prescriptions for the drug.

Goodhew believes some patients have legitimate medical conditions, while others want high-quality, medical-grade marijuana to "feel good."

He says he prescribes cannabis only for patients he knows well, but that it can be difficult for physicians to tease out those who want the drug just to get high.

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