(Article first appeared at CanEvolve)

Debra Harper

The people who run dispensaries in Vancouver, Toronto and elsewhere, claim there is a need for their services. On the other side, most municipalities claim the need doesn’t exist because people can buy from Licensed Producers (LP’s).

If we were introducing cannabis to society for the first time, then the government could implement any system it desired and people would likely be okay with it, but cannabis has been around before we all took our first breath, and consumers have already figured out ways to access the plant without government assistance or doctors permission.

In order to access legal cannabis, patients need their doctor to sign a prescription for them to submit to an LP. Most doctors refuse so this system is broken from the onset. Clinics are opening up around the country that help patients access the LP’s, but many want a fee of $200-$400 to make it happen. There are also issues with supply, quality and other problems that have been inherent in the growing pains of this new industry that is run by many people who have never grown cannabis before.

People who have difficulty obtaining clean, good quality, affordable cannabis, or are new to ingesting it and want the legitimacy of a sanctioned system, may find the LP’s work for them if they can get the doctor’s prescription.

For many seasoned consumers, the government system is alien and unusual to them. They have never needed their doctors permission, they may want to see what they are getting before they purchase, they are happy with the quality, and they like the personal connection that comes with making a purchase, whether buying from the neighbourhood dealer or a dispensary.

Apollo Medical, Vancouver BC

Dispensaries have so many added benefits that the local dealer can’t match, that they are the preferred choice for POP (point of purchase) for consumers living in close enough proximity. The choice of strains, the array of edibles, tinctures and other processed forms, the expertise and information obtained, the personalized service, these are all things consumers/patients do not get from LP’s or dealers. These are unique to dispensaries which prove why there is a need for them and why people use them despite having other choices.

It is also important to not lump all dispensaries into one group, as most are independently operated so the quality and price can vary greatly from one to the next. This problem has been tackled by The Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries (CAMCD), a not-for-profit corporation established to promote a regulated community-based approach to medical cannabis access. In large cities where people have many choices that include their local dealer, a surplus of dispensaries, and LP’s, they have made their choice where they make their purchase.

We supposedly live in a free market society and always hear the mantra, “Let the markets decide”. Let’s try that with dispensaries and end the hypocrisy.

 

(appeared May 6, 2016 at CanEvolve)