Ashley Keenan: Why Sublingual Cannabis Strips Are An Utter Disappointment
Sublingual cannabis strips should have been a huge win for patients. It’s a discreet, smoke-free, immediate onset delivery method that truly could have transformed medicating at work or in public.
Instead, medical rollout is almost non-existent and (yet again) the adult-use market is being prioritized. While there are infused oral strips for sale in Canada, the recreational use focus is obvious as to date there is only one medical provider offering this technology.
The products themselves are satisfactory, but by no means revolutionary. Consumers give oral strips mixed reviews online. Some users love the convenience, efficacy, and degree of discretion, while others criticize the dissolving tech, potency, and general apathy towards the consumer experience.
Sublingual Cannabis Strips: Before
Let’s rewind the clock to 2018: adult-use cannabis had been legalized, medical cannabis was still booming, and I was settling into my cannabis career with stars in my eyes at all the innovation ahead. The product I was most excited about? Sublingual strips! Essentially Listerine strips but infused with the powers of pot.
As a patient, these strips were appealing for a number of reasons. I am tired of the glares and snickering when I use my medication in public. I love normalizing cannabis but sometimes I just need to quickly control my condition and get on with my day.
It is difficult for patients to find immediate relief, as products are predominantly limited to vaping or smoking dried flower. Ingestible items like edibles and cannabis oils can take hours to feel effects and are unreliable and often triggering for those of us with gastrointestinal issues. I would love to have an inhaler where one puff equaled 10 milligrams of THC. That type of medicine doesn’t exist yet, which is why these strips could have been a huge accessibility point for people like me.
The first strip-style product announced was for the medical market, a joint venture between Aurora and CTT Pharmaceutical Holdings. I naively thought that meant patients were going to be prioritized with this method of consumption.
Aurora Dissolve Strips were incredibly popular, and the entire product run sold out in less than 60 days. I didn’t get to try Aurora’s coveted sublingual cannabis strips, and the product disappeared from the market as news of lawsuits and dissolved partnerships hit the media.
When Will Patients Be Prioritized?
It would be some time before another oral strip would hit any market, medical or otherwise. This time it was clear that medical access wasn’t the first priority. In Ontario the OCS has seen more sublingual strip variety than any of the medical cannabis marketplaces in Canada. To date, Emblem is the only medical provider selling sublingual cannabis strips directly to patients.
Just because a product is for sale in the adult-use stream, it doesn’t mean it is accessible to patients. Yes, I could go online and purchase this product from any of my local retail stores and have it in my hands within the hour.
While people may use the adult-use stream for therapeutic reasons, that isn’t its primary function. If a patient needs to purchase from a retail store, it represents a serious breakdown in the chain of medical access (but that is a different article).
When producers prioritize the adult-use stream, patients have to buy retail. The cost is higher as we don’t have access to any compassionate pricing or excise-tax reduction programs. Patients also can’t claim adult-use purchases on their tax returns as medical expenses, even when using them to treat conditions related to their physician’s authorization.
Overall, the rollout and current state of offerings for sublingual strips (much like topicals) has been a huge disappointment. While patients should be a priority, especially for products like this, profits still reign supreme. Without the push from patients there might not even be a legal adult-use market, yet our access continues to be an afterthought. Medical cannabis patients deserve better.