Canada’s Dispensaries Should Stay Open, Says UBC Study

CANNABIS CULTURE – Dispensaries in Canada should not be shuttered when the federal government legalizes recreational cannabis next year. This is the among the conclusions of a recent study of cannabis users by a pair of UBC researchers.

In a paper titled “Are dispensaries indispensable? Patient experiences of access to cannabis from medical cannabis dispensaries in Canada”, PhD candidate Rielle Capler and UBC Okanagan associate professor Zach Walsh found that dispensaries are a “tried and true method of selling cannabis” in the country.

“There is a self-regulatory model that already exists and improvements can be made in a legalized environment,” says Walsh in an October 12 press release.

Associate professor Zach Walsh co-authored a recent study on Canadian dispensaries and their customers. Photo courtesy UBC Okanagan.

Their research found that individuals who access dispensaries tend to be older, more frequently suffer from HIV/AIDS and/or arthritis, and value a variety of cannabis strains.

“Excluding dispensaries from current regulations has the potential to disproportionately impact these patients,” says the report, which notes that older people may have poorer access to illicit supply chains.

The researchers talked to 445 individuals who used cannabis for therapeutic purposes, 215 of whom frequented dispensaries and 230 who obtained cannabis by other means (personal production, illegal dealers, etc.). The pair determined that the majority of users prefer to get their products from medical dispensaries, many of which have been operating for years in their communities.

“Dispensaries are not new and they provide a proven, valuable service,” says Capler. “While some are thought of as a nuisance, in reality many of these dispensaries are small, independent, long-standing businesses who serve a dedicated clientele.”

The study also found that consumers felt more respected when growing their own cannabis or purchasing it from dispensaries rather than obtaining it from other sources, and noted that dispensaries may offer a wider social and advocacy benefit for consumers.

There are currently over 100 dispensaries operating in the Metro Vancouver area.

The full report was published in the September 2017 issue of the International Journal of Drug Policy.

Miranda Nelson

Miranda Nelson is a writer and editor based in Vancouver, B.C.