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Medical cannabis patients anxious and fearful over supply shortages

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Can’t find any weed to buy for a party this weekend? Don’t complain.

Canadians who use cannabis for medical reasons are being hit by shortages in a far worse way.  

“It’s actually more than a supply issue, really it’s something of a health crisis now,” says James O’Hara of the patient advocacy group Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana.

O’Hara says Canadians with cannabis prescriptions to help with seizures, anxiety and other serious health problems are emailing his organization, upset by “out of stock” signs at their regular provider’s website or retail location.

“Unfortunately, there are no regulations in place to actually guarantee supply for the medical market,” O’Hara points out. 

‘I’m a patient’

Bryan Wakefield of Thunder Bay, Ont. has been unable to place an order for three weeks. He says he uses cannabis to manage his ADHD and borderline personality disorder.

“I’ve been on the phone today, trying to figure out which licensed producer I can switch to,” the 39-year-old says with frustration. “I’m a patient, it’s not like I’m ordering a microphone off Amazon and I’m upset because I got the wrong colour.”  

Dan Goulet of Kitchener, Ont. works for a cannabis producer and even he can’t get his medicine. “My company doesn’t have the CBD oil that I use,” he says. In the two weeks he’s been unable to access cannabis supplies, he says he’s been experiencing “bad health effects” from a digestive disorder.

Meanwhile, 67-year-old Peter Prete of Thunder Bay is glad he was warned ahead of time to prepare for the shortage. A friend who works for a large cannabis producer that he declined to name, tipped him off that the focus would be shifting to the recreational market, and that he should stock up.  

Dan Goulet of Kitchener checks the Ontario Cannabis Store every day, but can’t find a supply of the CBD oil he needs to control his concussion symptoms. (CBC News)

“I ordered a s–tload, if you’ll pardon the expression,” he says, noting that since he started using cannabis he’s been able to reduce his reliance on the prescription medications he regularly takes for an array of “old man” maladies. “I told my friends to do the same, to place big orders, but they didn’t listen and now they’re out of luck.”

Diverting supply

Many medicinal users suspect that licensed producers have been seduced by the much larger recreational market, and have prioritized shipments to that sector.

The director of the Cannabis Council of Canada, which represents 85 percent of the country’s cultivators and medicinal suppliers, says the opposite is true.

“If anything we’re seeing adult consumer-use cannabis being repackaged and reallocated to ensure medicinal demand is met first,” says Allan Rewak.  

But he acknowledges there are issues right now. “Every time a patient is waiting, that’s a problem.”  

Rewak says a combination of factors have led to difficulties with the medicinal supply.

Demand for medicinal cannabis “skyrocketed”  prior to the Oct. 17, possibly due to concerns from patients that recreational users would deplete inventory — and those orders depleted medical inventory

James O’Hara of the patient advocacy group Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana says access to medical pot has become a bit of a ‘health crisis.’ (Gosia Wozniacka/The Associated Press)

The industry is under stress during a time of transition, to try to increase staff and respond to overwhelming recreational demand.  

“Medicinal patients are and will be our priority,” Rewak insists. “Every company that’s part of our membership is working seven days a week, 24 hours a day to make sure the supplies get out the door.”

Lack of transparency

Patient advocate James O’Hara isn’t satisfied by the industry’s reassurances.  

“No one’s really communicating with patients and saying, ‘hey look, in 12 weeks or six weeks or three weeks you’re gonna be fine.’ That contributes to the anxiety that patients have, because they’re now in a realm where they just don’t know what’s going to happen.”

In Thunder Bay, Bryan Wakefield agrees. “They’re not being very transparent,” he says. “No solutions are coming from the LPs, no one is saying ‘this is what we’re doing to improve this.'”

He’s also not impressed with the government’s treatment of medical patients. “Health Canada is very hands-off with this, and that’s very frustrating,” he says.

In an email to CBC, a spokesperson for Health Canada says: “The numbers tell the story: at the end of September 2018, licensed producers had reported to Health Canada … that they had inventory on hand of more than 90,000 kilograms of dried cannabis and 41,000 litres of cannabis oil. In contrast, preliminary estimates of retail sales to date from publicly available information, while strong, represent only a small fraction of that available inventory.”

If that’s the case, the trouble experienced by many medical patients remains a mystery.  

“We never had any complaints about delivery before legalization,” says O’Hara. “What’s changed?  Only one thing.”

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Real Estate

CMHC: Toronto and Vancouver Real Estate Delinquencies Rise, While The Rest of Canada Falls

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Canadian real estate markets are seeing mortgage delinquencies fall… just not in Toronto or Vancouver. Equifax data crunched by the CMHC shows the national rate of delinquencies fell in Q1 2020. Breaking down the numbers, this trend is stronger in some real estate markets than others. Montreal for instance, is seeing their delinquency rates drop to multi-year lows. Toronto and Vancouver are on the flip side of the stat, and are actually seeing delinquencies rise.

Mortgage Delinquency Rates

The mortgage delinquency rate is the percent of mortgages overdue. Today’s Equifax numbers are mortgages that are more than 90 days overdue. Pretty straight-forward, but there’s two things to keep in mind – seasonality and level.

Mortgage delinquency rates, like other forms of credit delinquencies, tend to be seasonal. When looking at seasonally sensitive numbers, quarterly changes don’t tell us a lot. Unless there’s a sudden and abrupt change that’s not seasonally observed. Instead, it’s the year-over-year change of the quarter that’s more important.

The next note to keep in mind is there’s no universally high or low level for delinquencies. Some regions like Montreal, have always had higher levels of delinquencies. Cities like Toronto and Vancouver are always lower than the national level. With regional variances like this, it’s more important to focus on the velocity of change. If Vancouver had the same level of delinquencies as Montreal, but with Vancouver supersized mortgages – it would be catastrophic for the economy. It only needs to be up a few points for real estate markets to be in trouble, before it becomes an emergency.

Canadian Mortgage Delinquencies Fall

Canadian mortgage delinquencies were falling across the country in the first-quarter. The rate of mortgage delinquencies fell to 0.29% in Q1 2020, unchanged from the previous quarter. Compared to the same quarter last year, this was 3.3% lower. Since delinquencies are seasonal, the quarter over quarter change is less significant than the annual change. In this case, the delinquency rate was improving on the national level.

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Real Estate

Bank of Canada Pumping Billions Into Mortgage Liquidity To Prop Up Real Estate

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Canada’s central bank is desperately trying to prop up real estate markets with liquidity. Bank of Canada (BoC) has been injecting billions into Canada Mortgage Bonds (CMBs). The central bank began purchasing a few million worth of bonds during last year’s real estate slow down. As the pandemic hit, the BoC began buying hundreds of millions worth of CMBs per week. The flood of liquidity has a limited impact on preserving prices, but creates a massive withdrawal risk.

Canada Mortgage Bonds (CMBs)

Canada mortgage bonds (CMBs) are debt securities guaranteed by the Government of Canada. Basically, lenders originate mortgages, and then group them into a pool. The pool is then sold to the government as a mortgage backed security (MBS). In order to buy MBSs, the government sells CMBs to investors to generate the funds. The cash flow from the MBS is then used to make payments to investors holding CMBs. Long story short, the CMBs are a state secured vehicle for mortgage financing.

Since the government of Canada guarantees all CMBs, they pay very little interest. In a normal market, when demand rises for CMBs, interest paid falls even further. When demand drops, interest rates typically rise to attract more investment. Simple supply and demand, right? Not in a country that’s gone all-in on its housing bubble.

When real estate markets began looking a little tired last year, the BoC stepped in. They started buying CMBs to “improve liquidity,” which is bankster for suppressing rates. At first, they said it was going to be on a non-competitive basis – meaning they would support market rates and prevent increases. Starting on March 20 of this year though, they announced they would start buying on a competitive basis. They now actively play a role in driving mortgage rates down. This drives investors even further away from the asset class, meaning they have to buy even more. In other words, money printer goes brrr.

The BoC Is Injecting Hundreds of Millions Per Week

The BoC has purchased billions in CMBs since the beginning of the year. As of July 22, the BoC held $7.95 billion in CMBs, up $234 million from a week before. That works out to a balance increase of 1,450% from the same week last year. What started as just a few million worth of bonds, has turned into a few million per week.

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Real Estate

‘Hobbit house’ hits Alberta real estate market for the first time

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Thanks to a creative Calgary family who had a vision for their vacation home, J.R.R. Tolkien fans don’t need to journey to Middle-earth to visit the Shire.

They only need to know where to look in the Alberta foothills.

An earthen home built into the hillside near Millarville, Alta., by Calgarians Rodney and Ouida Touche in 1971 is on the market for the first time since its construction.

It was designed by Bill Milne, the architect behind the Calgary Tower and the city’s pathway system.

And if you ask many of the Millarville locals about a striking piece of real estate — the home with rounded walls and windows, hidden by its partially bermed construction — they will likely recognize the property they call the “Hobbit house.”

As a child who spent summers there with her parents and siblings, Karen Lightstone did not understand the nickname.

As an adult who decided with her family to sell the house, it finally clicked.

“I have a copy of The Hobbit, and I pulled it out when we were to put it on the market,” Lightstone said.

“And the whole opening paragraph of Chapter 1 talks about the round door opening to a long, tube-shaped hallway. The best rooms are on the left because that’s where all the windows were. And I was like, ‘Oh my Lord, this is exactly what they built.'”

Home hidden to keep from being ‘eyesore’ in landscape

The house was built by carving away half of a hill, Lightstone said, and pouring concrete between domes made of mesh and rebar.

Because the home is partially bermed, it’s hard to see — a conscious decision, made to keep the home from ruining the sweeping landscape.

“My parents were trying to figure out where a good spot would be. They really didn’t want it visible on the ridge. They didn’t want any of the neighbours to be able to just see this house, because to them, that would be a bit of an eyesore,” Lightstone said.

“I don’t know how they came to decide exactly how it was going to be. But I do know — from doing some trips with my dad and from conversations he had — they were always interested in something unique like that.”

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