Blog Canada Feature

Op-ed: The Moral “High” Ground


Tilray has announced they are leaving the CMCIA, the nascent Canadian Medical Cannabis Association, because the group wouldn’t adhere to to ‘morals and ethics’ of the US-owned mega producer. They have instead decided to form their own industry association called the Canadian Medical Cannabis Council.

That’s right, ethics and morals. You see, Tilray is saying that they will never provide kickbacks to clinics for directing patients to them. Which is good. Good for them! But rest assured this has nothing to do with morals and ethics. This is business as usual. There are no morals and ethics when everyone wants to dominate a newly emerging multi-billion dollar market.
You see, the MMPR is hurting for patients. There are about 20,000 patients currently registered under the MMPR, and probably about half that who are regularly-ordering customers, filling their ‘prescriptions’ consistently. The reason for that is in itself a giant, complicated topic, but in short: The rest either signed up once and never ordered, or order a few times and stopped because the A) their producer ran out of product or raised prices, etc B) the system is a pain in the ass when you can order directly from numerous unregulated, illegal online or over-the counter dispensaries.
So you have maybe 10-15,000 customers (yes, customers) and 18 licensed producers, most of who are beginning to have a stockpile of product and are desperate for customers. That’s fewer than 1,000 active patients per producer. Now, Tilray claims to have about 4,000 (active and inactive) of these patients to themselves, and have been gathering patients willy-nilly for the past year since they’ve been approved, even when they didn’t have the products to serve those patients. Social media has been riddled with angry Tilray customers for some time now who have found ordering their product akin to getting tickets for the Rolling Stones playing live with Tupac’s hologram.
It’s important to note here that once a patient signs up with a producer, they are essentially locked in. Switching producers is cumbersome unless you have a very cooperative doctor, since it requires a new ‘prescription’ each time. As I’ve mentioned in the past, the early-approved producers have an *enormous* market advantage over those approved recently, and patient acquisition is a big part of that.
So this producer essentially locks in nearly 1/4 of the entire market through arguably unethical means themselves, then claims the moral high ground against some of their competitors who have not yet had a chance to get as much market tration/customer retention. Many newer producers are still scrambling to reach much past 1,000 patients, and almost certainly are providing some kind of kickback, either direct or indirect, to for-profit clinics. And yes, they shouldn’t be doing this. Let’s be very clear there. It’s against every rule in the book and harms the integrity of the system . But the issue here is the claim of the moral high ground, and a media campaign that reads like paid content covering only one side of a very, very nuanced issue. This is not about morals and ethics. This is about preventing the newer guys from acquiring new customers themselves, by their own arguably-unethical means.

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