HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Study
Pubdate: Wed, 12 Jul 2017
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2017 The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Mike Hager
Page: S1


Medical-cannabis patients who use illegal cannabis dispensaries
instead of turning to other legal and black-market sources do so
because they feel safe at these shops and like that they have reliable
supplies of the specific strains they want, according to new research
from the University of British Columbia.

Rielle Capler, a PhD student and the study's lead author, said the
results can help give Ottawa and provincial governments an idea of
what consumers want as they look toward legalizing the drug some time
next year.

"We've seen that dispensaries are part of the legal system in other
jurisdictions, in the States where they have legalized cannabis for
recreational purposes, and we've had a natural experiment, in a way,
going on in Canada for the past 20 years," said Ms. Capler, who
started working with the B.C. Compassion Club Society in 1999 before
going into academia. "So we're hoping that this research can help
inform governments as they consider what distribution will look like
after legalization and take into account the patient and user's

Ms. Capler's team surveyed 445 self-identified adult medical-cannabis
users and found those who visited dispensaries (215) were more likely
to be older Canadians living with HIV/AIDS or arthritis. The study,
published in the September issue of the International Journal of Drug
Policy, also showed that roughly 90 per cent of those that went to
dispensaries rated these shops "good" or "very good" on a range of
topics including quality of products, safety, efficiency availability
of cannabis and whether they felt respected.

The price of pot at these illegal dispensaries - which for the most
part has remained on par with Health Canada's medical mail-order
system in recent years - was the only category where dispensaries
didn't outperform other ways of getting cannabis: buying from a
friend, growing it legally yourself, having someone else grow it for
you legally, purchasing from a street dealer and ordering it from a
federally approved commercial grower.

The study mostly involved participants from British Columbia and
Ontario and relies on interviews from 2011 to 2012, before the
medical-cannabis laws were twice overhauled. During that time, just
one company - Prairie Plant Systems - provided this legal medicine and
just a dozen or so illegal dispensaries were operating across the country.

Still, Ms. Capler argues, these are the options still available to
cannabis patients, albeit at a much larger scale with the explosion in
both licensed producers and illegal cannabis shops.

Ms. Capler said new research is forthcoming on how and why people are
using Vancouver's dozens of dispensaries as legalization approaches.

The federal cannabis legislation unveiled earlier this year left the
question of where cannabis may be sold entirely up to provinces and
municipalities. This could mean, as with alcohol sales, that consumers
across Canada might have vastly different ways of buying recreational

A federal task-force report informing the government's legalization
push recommended against selling the drug in liquor stores, noting
concerns that mixing alcohol and marijuana leads to higher levels of

But politicians in British Columbia, Manitoba and Ontario floated the
idea of selling cannabis at such government-run outlets and have
voiced their displeasure with the scofflaws running cannabis shops in
their provinces.

Canada's several hundred dispensaries all operate outside the federal
government's medical-marijuana program, which permits about 40
industrial-scale growers to sell dried flowers and bottles of cannabis
oil directly to patients through the mail.

The UBC study also found that dispensary customers were more likely to
have discussed cannabis with their doctors and received authorization
from Health Canada to use the drug. Ms. Capler said 2013 research from
a UBC team led by Prof. Zach Walsh found about 75 per cent of those
authorized by the government to use medical cannabis also visited
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